VAR Farce That’s Killing Our Passion
Magical Moments Under Threat
With Wolves back in Premier League action this afternoon following their latest Europa League heroics, the spotlight returns to the increasing use of video replays and all the ramifications. David Instone has his say on the controversial technology.
Would Steve Bull’s aeroplane celebration ever have got off the ground had VAR been around in his hey-day?
So used was Wolves’ record all-time scorer to employing a bit of muscle when necessary and to playing ‘on the shoulder’ of the last defender that who knows how many of his 306 goals would have been referred because of a nudge here and a possible offside offence there?
With an extra set of eyes and a pause button, he might have added plenty to his mind-blowing total as well of course thanks to the over-ruling of decisions, but there is a bigger issue at stake here.
Football is in danger of losing some of its precious passion – the very commodity that is craved by all fans.
The Bully era would have been just the tip of the iceberg. The delight opponents have felt in scoring against Wolves down the years would also have been interrupted time and time again with the interference of what has been described as the freeze-frame fiasco.
Ok, John McGinlay would almost certainly have been sent off before he struck his decisive second in the Championship play-off semi-final of 1995 – that would have been an obvious positive. But would the game have been better overall had this new technology been with us for decades?
Gary Lineker and any number of other high-profile TV presenters and pundits have talked up VAR’s introduction for years. Well, they would, wouldn’t they! It makes TV even more powerful in our game….
I dislike it and have been opposed to it all along. Credit to Pep Guardiola for accepting with such good grace the ruling-out of what would have been a last-gasp Manchester City winner against Tottenham last weekend.
Of more relevance, though, are the words of our own Nuno, who has hit the nail on the head, as he so often does.
Namely that one of the bedrocks of the whole match-day experience – the lifeblood that is the outpouring of manic delight when a goal goes in – is under threat of being eroded.
He said so after the opening-day draw at Leicester, where Leander Dendoncker’s would-be winner was rightly (under the controversial new hand-ball rule) disallowed, and again after the waiting game that followed Ruben Neves’s stunner against Manchester United.
How long will it be before swathes of fans refrain from demonstrating their joy out of fear for it being dampened at a stroke by a man in a TV studio in the West London suburb of Stockley Park?
Danny Murphy and Tim Cahill spoke much sense on the subject on Match of the Day 2 last Sunday, when one of the points raised was the hesitation tendency players might soon develop over celebrating a goal.
“As long as the right decision is eventually reached” has been a common sentiment expressed in defence of the lengthy waits for a ruling.
Of more concern to me is that the system will kill the spontaneity of the moment. It could become more a case of ‘Sit down, they might check it’ than ‘We’re total strangers but we’ve scored….can I give you a hug?’
Cricket sees its DRS system as a way of cutting out umpiring howlers. And, fair enough, Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany in the 2010 World Cup is an example of the sort of blunder which should never happen at that level.
But cricket, like tennis and rugby, have numerous stoppages anyway. Decision reviews fit much more easily into those sports than football and cricket umpires have already become lazier about making decisions, knowing that a higher authority is in place to do so.
Just as I would have hated Bully staying ‘grounded’ or hesitating over sliding on his knees in front of the South Bank, I dread the day Neves refrains from tearing off, finger pointing at his head, in celebration of another wonder-strike. Let’s save the moment, preserve the passion and either get VAR working better or boot it out at the earliest opportunity.