Why I’m Turning Against VAR As The System Is Currently Being Used

Liverpool’s performance against Newcastle United on Saturday was a demonstration of just how far we’ve come under Jürgen Klopp. Yes, Newcastle have managed just three league wins at Anfield in the league over the past seventy-five years, but that’s in the past and entirely irrelevant to how the current players are likely to do against them. In years gone by, had we conceded a goal against a side that was likely to sit back and defend with eleven men behind the ball, the team wouldn’t have had the confidence to keep playing its football without beginning to panic. Had a referee failed to do their job correctly, some players might have let it get to them. Yet this is an entirely different beast of a Liverpool team. Despite the goal Jetro Willems gave the Geordies after just seven minutes of the match, the result was never in doubt. There will be sterner tests to come, to say nothing of injuries possibly derailing our season, but we were asked a question and answered it emphatically.

There were so many noteworthy moments, with Roberto Firmino’s outrageous assist for Mo Salah’s goal being the pick of the bunch. In many ways I’m sad to see that the rest of the country appears to be cottoning on to just how good the Brazilian actually is. I preferred it when he was massively underrated and you could judge how much somebody actually knew about football according to whether or not they said things like ‘Firmino doesn’t score enough goals’. The beauty of the team that Klopp has put together is that it’s impossible to identify the key player. Salah has obviously taken the headlines for the last couple of seasons, but both Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker have changed the way we look as a defensive unit, with Adrián proving to be an able deputy to the latter. Sadio Mané is probably the best player in current form, but Firmino remains the most important. Yet of all the talking points from the day, none have annoyed me as much as André Marriner and the failed use of the VAR.

The VAR Is A Good Idea

If you’ve read any of my other pieces on the VAR system then you’ll know that I’m a massive advocate of it. The reason I refer to it as the VAR is that it’s important to remember that it’s an acronym that stands for ‘Video Assistant Referee’. It’s not an autonomous machine that you would think it is by referring to it solely as ‘VAR’, instead being a referee’s assistant that gets to use video footage to help the man in the middle reach the right decision. That’s the theory behind it and it’s a theory that I’m 100% on board with. For some reason the Professional Game Match Officials Limited team seem to think that an on-field referee’s decision being over-ruled by the VAR would diminish their authority. It’s an absolutely ludicrous suggestion, with nobody ever feeling that when an assistant waves the flag and points to a penalty incident, for example, that that means that the referee has been poor at his job.

The reality is that footballers are fitter and faster than ever before. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying that the game moves far too quickly for a referee to possibly be able to see every event. Obviously there are a good number of officials, with Jon Moss being the obvious example, who are simply too unfit to keep up with play. Allowing them the help of a video assistant would let them get more decisions right than wrong. There’s also the fact that far too many of the men in the middle turn up with their own pre-conceived narrative, refusing to give penalties in front of the Kop to ‘prove’ that they won’t be influenced by the Anfield crowd. Given how attacking we are, the fact that Spurs have had more Kop-end penalties than us since 2017 is an absolute disgrace. Use the VAR system should stop that from happening. That’s why I’m favour of it as an idea.

The Current Implementation Is Pointless

Whilst I might be in favour of using the VAR system as an idea, the current implementation of it is an absolute disgrace. I don’t buy into the idea that it should be binned off because it’s not good for match-going fans, for a number of reasons. For starters, whilst we might not like to admit it, match-going supporters are now just a small percentage of the people who actually watch football games. On top of that, the right decision being made should outweigh whether people get to celebrate or not. Yet I don’t believe that the experience for fans at the match should be ruined for the sake of the VAR system being used to look at whether a goal is two millimetres offside or the ball has accidentally brushed the hand of an attacker prior to a goal but then not used to investigate penalties, sending-offs and other major incidents.

The slightly worse experience for the match-going fan is, and I say this as a match-going fan, a worthy trade-off for the correct decision being made more often than not. It is not worth it for minuscule offside calls. If the Premier League have decided that this is how they’re going to use the VAR system then I’m in favour of it being abandoned altogether. The referee is not sacrosanct. They will make mistakes and admitting that doesn’t weaken their authority. If anything it strengthens it because it means that they’re getting help in decision making from as many voices as possible. Theirs will still be the deciding factor, but you will not be able to convince me that the foul on Joel Matip was subjective. It was just a foul and a penalty. This isn’t a Liverpool thing, either. I think Sheffield United should have had a penalty in their game against Southampton. Until VAR is going to be used properly, there’s no point in it being used at all.

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