Mike Dean gave red cards to Jan Bednarek of Southampton and then Tomas Soucek of West Ham United within the space of a week. Both decisions were overturned after being criticised. With VAR checking every incident, Premier League referees are under more pressure than ever.
Var Affecting Referees Aswell as Players
The Offside Rule
While VAR serves as an aid to Premier League referees. Its impact on the Premier League has left a sour taste for many involved in football.
With goals chalked off by the most marginal offside decisions, whereby lines will be drawn on the screen to calculate if an attacker is beyond the line of defenders.
Although, this can be frustrating for the many fans tuning in for a source of entertainment. As the game is often deprived of its fast-paced nature.
The offside rule is strict. With technology trusted to discover the position of varying body parts to the nearest millimetre.
Perhaps football might benefit from a relaxation of the offside rule. Instead of drawing digital lines on the screen. Deciding with the naked eye with the use of video replays. While giving the benefit of the doubt to the attacker if no obvious fault can be found with the player’s positioning. This would contribute to the product of Premier League football, as there would be more goals.
However, the official’s strict rule books make this unlikely to happen.
Unfortunately, this means offside incidents cannot be viewed in context. This was the case when Ollie Watkins had a last gasp goal ruled out against West Ham.
The Aston Villa striker got goal side of Angelo Ogbonna. As the cross came in Ogbonna put both arms around Watkins. The striker wrestled free of Ogbonna, before slotting the ball away.
However, Watkin’s arm was offside when he broke free of the defender’s grasp.
The referees controlling the video replays missed the foul because of the offside check. Therefore, showing that the human use of VAR is the issue. Not the video replays themselves.
The Handball Rule
The handball rule has evolved this season. Earlier in the season, any ball to arm contact was a foul. This resulted in numerous penalties, impacting several games.
Most notably, Eric Dier conceding a penalty in the last minute against Newcastle United. The defender jumped with his back turned when Andy Carroll headed the ball at his arm.
Since then, the handball rule has been softened. Although, any touch of the ball to an attacker’s arm in the passage of play building up to a goal, will mean the goal is still ruled out.
This once again means that the context of the situation cannot be considered. Mohammed Salah had a goal ruled out against Tottenham. Roberto Firmino‘s handball on the halfway line was the focus of VAR. Even when Dier handled the ball first when grappling with Firmino.
Referees Should Communicate More So Fans Can Hear Too
Referee’s explaining their decisions would benefit the fans, while also avoiding the confusion that comes with a VAR decision.
Premier League referees could wear microphones, as rugby officials do. This would give fresh insight into the referee’s role on the pitch. The officials would also gather more respect. As fans would see how difficult the job really is. There would also be pressure on players to improve their behaviour. As broadcasters would be wary of offensive language picked up by the referee’s microphone.
Referees could also explain decisions as the officials do in the National Football League. Many would argue football doesn’t have the time for more pauses in play. However, explaining the decision would only take several seconds, especially when going to the monitor already wastes time.
While providing microphones for football referees is unlikely to happen. The idea of VAR came from other sports. With video referees once thought unsuitable for football’s fast-paced nature.
Post-match interviews would provide referee’s chance to share their views of an incident. Although, this would give referees more personality. Something Mike Dean has been attacked for having too much of.
However, explaining doesn’t mean everyone will agree with the referee’s decision. Especially when many soft fouls are refereed by interpretation. It is the use of VAR that is exposing poor standards. When the on-field referee sees the incident multiple times and still makes the wrong call.
With an ever-changing rule book and the introduction of VAR. It seems football, while inconsistent in its decision making, has drama that makes the sport as thrilling as ever.
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