John Giles: I only heard one man speaking sense about VAR over the weekend
THERE will be a time not so far in the future when we will look back at the debate surrounding Video Assisted Referees and wonder what the fuss was all about. When that moment arrives, some football people will have reason for red faces.
I have Alan Shearer in mind, but he’s not alone in taking a doggedly negative stance since they started to trial VAR.
The coverage on BT and, indeed, the BBC has been notably negative, from commentators through to pundits, and the only man I heard speaking sense over the FA Cup weekend was Steven Gerrard, who backed VAR despite its teething problems.
The bottom line is that, so far, VAR has made the right calls. Every time.
Shearer was at it again after the weekend, criticising the VAR following Liverpool’s defeat by West Brom in the Cup on Saturday. He was out on the town that evening and conducted a poll among his pals in a restaurant.
The majority at the dinner table disagreed with some of the VAR decisions, but Shearer was on duty for the BBC for the Manchester City v Cardiff FA Cup tie on Sunday and admitted that had VAR been in place for the game, Bernardo Silva’s wonder goal would have stood.
So when VAR is in place, he’s not happy with it and when it’s not, he wants it. I really don’t believe that Shearer has thought this through.
I think he has sincere worries, but the cynic in me wonders why the response from broadcasters so far has been so negative.
I wonder are the producers of football shows beginning to realise what VAR actually means; that much of the drama and controversy which was previously the sole preserve of after-match analysis will now be resolved before the game ends.
In other words, instead of being part of the drama, the television studios and pundits will be left mopping up the aftermath.
Let’s clear a few things up first. The major objection against VAR, in fact, that only reasonable objection I can see, is that it takes too long.
Fair enough, but can I point out that a review of the incident surrounding Mohamed Salah and Jake Livermore was delayed in a big way by players from both teams flocking around the referee, which is a habit everyone wants to break.
It has been a big problem for a number of years, but VAR offers an easy solution. Red card. Talk to the referee during a VAR incident and it’s an instant red card.
I can guarantee you that after one such incident, an annoying element of time-wasting would disappear forever and make the VAR system easier to manage.
It would also help a great deal if the referee didn’t have to peer into what looked like a tiny TV screen to make his judgements.
Put the VAR replays up on the stadium screens, which would also help the crowd understand what is going on.
This is in its infancy and it must develop before anyone makes any negative judgements, but I’m very optimistic about it. I genuinely believe that a well-implemented VAR will change our game in a very big way.
Nothing done on a pitch is invisible, but cute footballers know how to hide many sins from match officials.
That’s what Livermore tried with Salah, but I’ll bet that the next time he’s running with an attacking player into his own penalty area with VAR active, he’ll think twice before he tries to con the referee with a sly pull on the arm.