Life Sport

VAR, No Ha Ha

A post written back in the day, originally for NZ football site In the Back of the Net, now on permanent hiatus. So here it is once again.. the anti-VAR stance.

The English Premier League, three years from now. Post-match, Dazza and his father walk to the Supporters Arms for a drink. The pub door opens..

“Bloody hell, Darren, I thought we’d never get here. The usual?”

“Aye Dad, I’m gaspin’. It’s not going to touch the sides. What’s the time? [checks phone] Quarter past six! I’m in trouble.. I should be home by now. I’ll just text Sally.”

“Two pints, please, Geoff. How many bloody times did they have to go to the video ref? Seven, was it?”

“I think so. If that’s modern football, I’ll tell ya, I’m fed up with it now.”

“I mean, could we please get through a match without any referrals? Come on, I have to sit down: matches go on so long, it really takes it out of me now. Grab that table there.”

“Here we go, Dad.”

“So humour an old man and tell me again why the referee has to go to the side-lines and check the replay on a chuffin’ screen. Why doesn’t the video ref make the decision?”

“Because they say it has to be the actual referee’s decision.. more integrity, like, if he does it. It’s not another fella’s say-so, it’s the man on the pitch. The video ref isn’t a qualified ref, he’s just someone who can work the video gear. So the ref has to watch the video himself. ”

“And we have to wait for him to run over and run back.”

“But he can view the replay on the screen of the ‘official video provider’.  [laughs]

“Bloody hell. Do we get any money for that from .. who is it?”

“Samsung. I dunno. Can’t be much, Dad, if we do.”

“Well, I’ve had enough of it. Whatever you thought about refs before all this bollocks came along, the game flowed better. And refs might have made a mistake or two but it all balanced out in the course of a season. You might have shouted at them on occasion, and lord knows we’ve seen some bad ones, but at least we had some kind of respect. They had a bit of character. You kind of knew where you were with the likes of Graham Poll, but now what? Referees are just automatons. I couldn’t name one of them. Anyone can do it. And what’s more, everyone adds up the mistakes they make now, so the poor guy, if he’s been a bit rubbish in previous weeks, gets some real stick right from the off. The FA’ll be using the stats on these referrals to rate refs soon, and they’ll be dropped if they get a bad rating.”

“Seems like that’s the way of the world, rate everyone at everything, sack them if they don’t live up to the ridiculous standards. The only thing I like about this video thing is that it works for making sure the ball’s over the line.”

“Aye, because that doesn’t really interrupt anything. But for offsides, it’s pushing it. Handballs and dives, it’s ridiculous.”

“It’s more ridiculous now that the opposition can ask for a referral, like cricket.”

“Oh aye, now that is daft. How often can they do that? Three times, isn’t it?”

“Three times a game. Which you’d think would be OK, but all too often the video doesn’t help. You might as well have just gone with the ref. A video can tell you if there’s contact. It can’t tell you how hard that contact is. It can show you a guy flying through the air, but I don’t think it helps you decide if the guy is diving or not. It’s still the ref’s interpretation. So why not just go with what he said in the first place? Why five minutes of messing about with video if it doesn’t show anything extra?”

“More like ten minutes, sometimes! And why do they have to play bloody music while this goes on? Do they think we’re all incapable of amusing ourselves while the ref watches his little video? I don’t want to hear We Will bloody Rock You and Hi Ho chuffin’ Silver Lining every two seconds.”

“They were thinking of having a T-shirt cannon too.”

“WHAT? While the video is playing..”

“.. yeah, some guy comes round and fires rolled up T-shirts into the crowd.”

“Jesus, Darren, the world’s going mad. If I went in with a wooden rattle they’d confiscate it and yet some idiot from Marketing can come along and shoot stuff into the stands. And what about when they couldn’t get the video to work? How long did that take? And they just went with what the ref said at first, so they had to have a drop ball! And bloody Wimbledon got the ball back, and it was supposed to be their foul in the first place!”

“I know, and this is supposed to make things clearer and make sure it’s the right decision and everyone is happy.. well, that time it was right in front of the us  and everyone was going mental. And we saw it four times on the big screen! I was livid.”

“I know. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you swear like that.”

“Sorry, Dad. But you don’t come as often as me.” [laughs]

[laughing too]  Here, less of that, lad, I’m not as young as I used to be. So they’ve spent all this money and they’ve got all these new-fangled things and there’s still controversy. It hasn’t really fixed what it set out to fix. Clubs will be suing referees next, if one of these video replays is interpreted the wrong way, and someone’s relegated or doesn’t get into the Champions League one year, a club could easily take the ‘video evidence’ to a trial. Seems to me there isn’t really a foolproof solution.”

“Aye, but they’ll argue that there are less mistakes, and it could never be 100% correct. Just better than not having video referrals.”

“Well, I don’t know if there will be less mistakes, watching today’s game of.. let’s see.. 125 minutes. Holy flippin’ moly. Hey, shouldn’t you be going for a tram?”

“Oh bloody hell, Sally will be furious. Got to go, Dad. Hey, we haven’t talked about the football, just the flippin’ video ref.”

“We can talk Sunday. At yours for dinner as usual?”

“Of course, Dad, see you then.”

“See you, son. Oh, Darren..?” [smiling]

“Yes, Dad?”

“What was the score again?”

“Three tw.. ah, you bugger.”

“Gotcha. Love to Sally. Go on, lad, get your tram.”