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Our Crack Tongue & Groove

redcard.jpg A bridge too VAR

VAR (video assistant referee) has been trialled at enough football matches in the UK this season for me to call it out for the nonsense that it is and hope that the authorities consign it to that Great Dustbin of Terrible Ideas along with cheerleaders and ‘Golden Goals’.

Most of the pundits and commentators I listen to on BBC Radio 5 Live are in favour of VAR, as are most newspaper journalists and match reporters. In fact, just about everyone who doesn’t actually pay for a match ticket seems to have the hots for it. Their reasoning is sound: why should good goals be disallowed, or dodgy goals stand, when a referee gets it wrong – especially when someone sitting in front of a bank of video screens can advice the on-field referee.

But the whole issue goes to the very heart of the game, which is: who is football actually for? Is it for the ten-a-penny pundits, reporters, or the casual fans lounging at home watching games on television? Or is it for the fans who actually pay money to go and support their team, week in, week out.

Most of these fans never get to see their team lift a trophy, especially if they happen to follow a club from the north-east, and, for them, the most joyous aspect of any game is when their team scores a goal. And because goals are a relatively rare occurrence, especially if you happen to follow a club from the north-east, then they are always met with an instant release, an outpouring of joy that is unmatched in any other sport.

But if VAR is put into place then that joy will be replaced with anxiety as referees - who will increasingly rely on cameras for fear of making a wrong call – take time to communicate with an unseen official, who may need to watch an incident from several different angles before they can make a judgement. Fans won’t be able to celebrate until they get the thumbs up from some eye in the sky, which will only succeed in sucking all of the excitement out of the most fundamental aspect of the game.

Football has already tilted itself away from paying fans to casual supporters watching on TV – witness the ridiculous kick-off times to optimise viewing figures – and the implementation of VAR would be yet another layer of nonsense that fans inside the ground would have to put up with.

And I really don’t care if referees sometimes get it wrong. They have been getting it wrong since the 19th century, but that hasn’t stopped football becoming the most popular sport in the world. And I’d much rather sing: “Who’s the bastard in the black?” than: “Who’s the bastard in the anonymous room deep in the bowels of the stadium watching it on telly?”