VAR slows the game and kills the thrills

Sunday Express - - COMMENT -

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

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