VAR slows the game and kills the thrills
WAS Harry Kane offside in the build-up to the eventual goal scored from the penalty spot that gave Tottenham a valuable 1-0 advantage against Chelsea from the first leg of the League Cup semi-final?
On the night former FIFA referee Mark Clattenburg reckoned the match officials made the right decision with VAR technology in declaring Kane was onside at the crucial moment.
The next day Clattenburg had changed his mind after looking at a different camera angle and said he thought Kane had been offside.
Apart from being hugely funny, this also illustrates why VAR will not be the panacea for football, the way to bring justice and end controversy.
It shows that VAR is just another way to start an argument, another way to bash the referee – and one that will slow the game down.
Clattenburg had the luxury of changing his mind over a full 24 hours – and he said he thought referees should take as much time as they wanted to get a decision right in a game.
He said it didn’t matter how long – but it does. In fast-action sports like football and rugby a delay of three four minutes for a decision that is still a 50-50 call, a matter of interpretation, is anathema.
Another aspect of the semi-final fuss was Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri immediately disputing the decision after the game by referring to the club’s own camera images of the incident.
He was undermining the authority of the match officials with his comments, even if not intentionally so.
This will be an unintended consequence of using technology, as has been the case in grassroots cricket where it is now more difficult to umpire because players see the stars of the game disputing decisions by asking for DRS reviews.
My strongest opposition to VAR – and DRS in cricket and TMO in rugby union – is that they change the nature of live sport. The goal, the wicket, the try is the supreme moment, but now merely the starting point for a discussion.
Some people like this; they reckon it adds to the drama. Not for me. There is not the same thrill, not the same impact.
Listen to the winning manager, Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, whose team had benefited from the use of VAR, but who wasn’t happy. “I don’t like VAR; it is a system that kills emotions,” he said. And he is right.
KEY MOMENT: Kane goes down