The Premier League & VAR: What Will Happen Next Season?
It is probably fair, and actually more likely an understatement, that the Premier League VAR experiment this season has not gone to plan. Managers, players and fans of the game all wanted it to come into play after a trial last season and after seeing it used in other competitions. However, there have been serious issues, and I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of people, if not all, want something to change next season. But what can the Premier League do to change things up, and make something that everyone wanted become the thing we were all hoping it would be?
To me, there are three things that the Premier League can do, keep things the same, which would be the worst idea and the one that would suffer the most backlash, from those both inside and outside of the game. Their second option is to make Premier League VAR a thing of the past and scrap it, but that would be seen as taking a step backwards, and not what world football would want to see. The final option is to change the rules surrounding VAR and make it easier to understand and eliminate some of the problems we have seen so far this season. This is the most likely outcome, and here is the best way forward we have seen discussed so far.
Give Attackers the Advantage Back with VAR Rule Change
The actual basics of VAR are spot on, and with technology being used in other sports, it feels as though it is something that every sport should do. Therefore, things need to be looked at to make VAR better and there is one thing sticking out. This is to give the advantage back to the attackers when it comes to decisions, change the way VAR is used in reviews and this should eliminate things we have seen and not liked so far this season. When complaints have been heard in the stands up and down the country, or on social media sites such as Twitter, it has been because players have been given offside by the narrowest of margins, with toes and shoulders being used to determine whether a player is offside or not.
The suggestion is to use VAR in the opposite way, and if a player has any part of their body onside, they are onside, rather than if they have any part of their body offside they are deemed to be offside. At the moment we see players level with their opponents, only to be given offside because of their foot position, shoulder position or something else. We have even had instances of players being given offside because they are leaning in an attempt to be onside, and although their feet are level, them leaning backwards has put their shoulders or head into an offside position.
With the new way of conducting VAR reviews, providing some part of the players body is onside, the player would be deemed onside. This would mean no more minute differences and a player’s toe determining that they are offside, these differences would work in favour of the attacker and show that they were in fact onside. We have always been told that if there is any doubt for a linesman when giving an offside, they should give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking player. The way VAR works at the moment, we are looking for tiny body parts that are offside, rather than body parts that are onside. This gives the advantage to the defender, and goes against what has long been seen as an unwritten rule in football.
If this was the one change made to VAR for next season, then I think we would instantly cut down the talking points surrounding it, and both players and fans would be far happier with the decisions that were being made. It would also result in more goals being scored, something the fans want and something the league would like to see too I think. The headlines have been grabbed by VAR wiping off goals for offside, we have seen few instances of goals been given because of VAR, and that has been another disappointing aspect of what has happened so far.
Encourage Referees to Use the Power They Have
An area that has really disappointed me so far this season, and one that some people may have not realised and forgotten about is how the referees on the field have used their power. During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we had referees on a regular basis stop play and go to the side of the pitch to view the screen and replays they had available. This has only happened with Premier League VAR decisions on rare occasions, and is something I would like to see more of.
We should be encouraging the referees on the field of play to use replays to help them determine whether there was and foul play or issues with goals, or reasons why the should be giving goals. We are not seeing enough of this, with nearly every single decision going to the VAR control room. I think this is another reason why VAR has received criticism this season, although with the difficulties surrounding VAR, it doesn’t surprise me that referees are not using it as much as they should be.
I think the changes here will only come hand in hand with changes to the offside reviews, which is clear the big Premier League VAR talking point and problem right now. If we can get those under control and the review system working in a style that pleases more people then hopefully the referees on the field will be more inclined to use their monitors and review other situations themselves.
Is VAR here to Stay in the Premier League?
I think the short answer to this is yes, VAR is here, and it is here to stay. Anyone who doesn’t like it should focus their attention and thoughts on suggestions that will make it better rather than taking it away all together, despite the fact that it has been poorly received this season. Premier League VAR decisions were supposed to eliminate the howlers made by referees and get them right. People argued that this would take away talking points in pubs and other environments up and down the country when actually all it has done is create more. If we are all spending our time talking about it, then it clearly isn’t working correctly. The saying always goes that if you don’t notice the referee then he has had a good game, the same can be said about Premier League VAR decisions, if we are not talking about them then the system is working.
The key for the Premier League this summer is to get VAR in a working position, not to get rid of it and end the experiment.
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January 12th, 2020 by Simon A
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