A Vote to End VAR

Premier League clubs will be asked to vote on the abolition of VAR at their shareholders meeting in June. This comes after Wolves brought forward a motion that could see the end to video-assisted referring in the English topflight. The motion would need a two-thirds majority (Wolves + 13 other teams) to be passed.

There have been five seasons of VAR in the Premier League and it is fair to say there have been teething issues all along the way. So here is a look at what exactly Wolves listed as some of the failings of the VAR system:

Impact on Goal Celebrations and the Spontaneous Passion That Makes Football Special

This is a very good point well-made and one almost all fans would agree with. It has negatively impacted the game as a spectacle. Gone are the spontaneous moments of joy when the ball hits the net, now everyone’s waiting to see if Stockley Park will intervene.

Frustration and Confusion Inside Stadiums Due to Lengthy VAR Checks and Poor Communication

Exact numbers are hard to find, but in the Premier League, the average time for a VAR review (an overturned decision) has been approximately 84 seconds. This, coupled with the general lack of communication in the stadiums, has definitely led to a less enjoyable atmosphere for the match-going public.

A More Hostile Atmosphere With Protests

This again is self-evident to anyone who has been in a Premier League ground when a VAR decision is taking place.

Overreach of VAR’s Original Purpose to correct clear and obvious mistakes

VAR’s original remit was to review goal, penalty, straight red card decisions, and cases of mistaken identity. It was only to correct clear and obvious errors, but it feels like it has strayed far from that territory.

Diminished Accountability of On-Field Officials, Due to the Safety Net of VAR

Referees are not making decisions, with linesmen being told to keep their flags down because it will all be checked later. Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou summed it up succinctly when he was quoted in a post-match as saying:

Games are not refereed in the stadium any more. They are refereed somewhere else and no one will convince me otherwise. It’s not even re-refereed, it’s refereed somewhere else. That’s why I don’t celebrate goals any more. I wait for somebody down the road. I just don’t think referees in the stadium any more have that authority they used to make decisions. They just go ‘You know what, I’ll just wait and see what the bloke down the road thinks’. It’s a shame.

Continued errors despite VAR, with supporters unable to accept human error after multiple views and replays

The Premier League set up an independent key match incidents panel (KMI panel), which assesses all the big decisions made by referees in every game. In February of 2024, the KMI put out a report claiming that VAR had led to a 14% increase in correct decisions.

This may sound good but football is a sport played for entertainment and correct decisions should not be the be-all and end-all of it. Every football fan who grew up in the pre-VAR error understood the concept of sometimes you get the rub of the green.

Disruption of the Premier League’s Fast Pace, Constant Discourse of VAR Overshadowing Matches, and Erosion of Trust and Reputation

The last three points are grouped as we all know the issues these have caused this season. The examples are manifold and have affected very team in the league at some point during the season. And while Howard Webb has done his best to bring transparency to the decision-making process of the PGMOL, it has failed to soothe many fans’ discontent.

One of the great appeals of football used to be that it was the same at the professional level as in a kid’s playground. VAR has taken that from us. It has also led to the ridiculous situation where the games in the FA Cup uses two different referring systems, depending on whether a match being played at a Premier League ground or not. It gives the competition a bad look, and really needs to be improved upon.

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