Soccer

What to do about VAR?

The Video Assistant Referee adds too much dead time to a free-flowing game.

Before I start, I would like to establish something. I write to you today as a frustrated Liverpool fan, still feeling the adverse effects of a 2-2 draw gifted to Tottenham on a last-minute penalty kick that should not have been awarded. Since John Moss wrongly pointed to the spot twice within the span of 10 minutes, there has been an increased interest in implementing the Video Assistant Referee. The idea is simple: a team of three referees assembled to review goals, penalties and decisions involving carding players. In many ways, it leads to a more perfect game. Decisions will, in theory, be correct more often. No more disputes, arguments or unnecessary complaints by managers after games.

But there’s a problem. VAR is boring. It slows the game to a tedious crawl, leaving humongous gaps, and disrupting the flow of the game. Thus, I propose the following five solutions to remedy this situation:

Fan vote

This would be fantastic. With Premier League viewership declining, especially among bottom half teams, there needs to be new ways to drum up fan support. Fan votes could do just that. Picture it. Stoke vs. Manchester United, it’s a  frosty evening at Old Trafford. It’s the 93rd minute. Manchester United have pushed for a goal all game long, but the score is deadlocked at 0-0. Then, off a Stoke counter attack, Charlie Adam is brought down in the box. Anyone but John Moss points to the spot. But the decision must be reviewed. At that point, fans have two minutes to text the number “123 Beat United”  with “penalty” or “no penalty” in order to cast a vote as to whether a penalty should be awarded. This is a win win. Fans get to see Man U endure embarrassing losses. Television ratings spike. Also, it’s fun to see this:

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Fight between players

Breaking news hockey fans, there are two types of you: the hardos who know every player and watch every single game, and the random viewers who want to see big guys fight. Why not transfer some of the second demographic to the beautiful game? Soccer players have taken a lot of hate for their diving in recent years (exhibit A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_lsNJKwcF0.) Let’s give them a chance to redeem themselves in some kind of WWE showdown. First to tap out concedes a goal for their team. My money is on Adam Lallana.

Rock Paper Scissors faceoff

There’s something about watching professional athletes that makes average viewers feel inadequate. There’s a hopelessness to it. Somehow, each one of us spuds at home know we will never be good as those on television. Introducing a classic game to decide the outcome of a refereeing decision would test the mind of the players and fill fans with hope that they can be as good as Lionel Messi at something.

(sidenote: showing symbol for gun, vortex, or grenade shows a lack of respect for the integrity of the game and shall result in an immediate season-long ban.)

Penalties taken by managers

Some managers are fantastic footballers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FUIuc5YSIg. Others are definitely not: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcrG2lvmGtc. Having former legends (see, Guardiola, Pep) faceoff against aged men (Hodgson, Roy) in a quick shootout would be a fantastic way to make any decision. Entertainment for all.

Suck it up. Mistakes happen.

At the end of the day, soccer is an error-ridden game. Mistakes are a part of each contest, and whether fans like it or not, they are imperative to maintaining a naturally-flowing sport. VAR represents a slippery slope. It slows down basketball and football dramatically, and if anything leads to more confusion (why was the touchdown thing at the Superbowl an issue? Explanations appreciated.) Ultimately, the best option is to accept the decision and write a salty article after your team gets robbed of three points at Anfield.

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Tom Hindle is a Multiplatform Journalism major at the University of Maryland. Raised in England, he moved to California at 13. He is a soccer writer for What the Sports but is a fan of all sports. His favorite team is Liverpool FC which has led to a lot of hurt in his lifetime.

1 comment on “What to do about VAR?

  1. Although I do believe that VAR has the potential to be a success if its use is limited to aiding referees in making monumental decisions (game-changing bookings, penalties, etc.), I see the other side of the coin which you were cleverly conveying until you engaged in the sacrilegious act of even suggesting that the greatest club ever would be subjected to having to endure a last minute loss at the hands of Stoke City of all the clubs… Either way, I feel as though it is becoming increasingly evident that referees cannot keep up with everything that goes on on a football pitch and the introduction of VAR would be a welcome addition if and only if it is used sparingly to correct potential game-altering or even season-altering mistakes. If implemented, it will take some time for the referees, players and fans to get used to the the new system of refereeing since it would probably slow down the game as you suggested in the article but in the long term, I see it becoming a mainstay in the sport we love that we will all learn to live with due to the simple concept of its pros outweighing its cons.

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