Connor Southwell: Is watching live football being killed by VAR?

PUBLISHED: 17:00 28 October 2019

Video Assistant Referee David Coote awards a penalty to Man Utd during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
27/10/2019

Video Assistant Referee David Coote awards a penalty to Man Utd during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 27/10/2019

Paul Chesterton

Carrow Road was a cauldron of confusion as the game was brought to a halt on two occasions, with the only obvious sign that there was technological interference being referee Stuart Attwell placing his finger against his ear.

Referee Stuart Attwell confirms the decision of Video Assistant Referee David Coote and awards a 2nd penalty to Man Utd during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
27/10/2019Referee Stuart Attwell confirms the decision of Video Assistant Referee David Coote and awards a 2nd penalty to Man Utd during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 27/10/2019

144 miles away, VAR spent two minutes re-watching an incident between Manchester United winger Daniel James and Norwich City defender Ben Godfrey.

Attwell was ideally positioned as he correctly waved away appeals for a penalty. An intervention by VAR then overruled him after an extended period of deliberation.

Yet, that moment of bewilderment experienced by everyone inside Carrow Road sums up exactly why VAR is failing to serve those closest to the game.

In reality, the constant stream of complaints about the quality of officiating in this country by Premier League managers left the footballing hierarchy keen to deflect discussion away from their referees.

Add onto that context the increasing pressure from the sports international governing body and understand why the Premier League felt obliged to introduce technology into the game.

Minimal disruption was the sole aim as they attempted to roll it out whilst ensuring the tempo of top-flight fixtures remained as intense as before.

The level of competition in the Premier League has made it a commercial commodity that is exported across the globe.

In terms of money making, it's a prized product and everyone wants a slice of the pie.

Manchester United chief Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was correct in his post-match comments, if endless replays are required and the period of time is lengthy then evidently the claim is not strong enough to constitute a reversal of a decision. Instead of aiding match officials and deflecting criticism, they've merely shifted it onto the technology and those who are in charge of it.

The lack of leadership surrounding the use of pitch-side monitors is baffling, extending these delays further and prompting more anger.

Suffice to say that the use of these screens could aid officials in selling their verdict and providing the illusion that those in black on the pitch are the omnipotent decision makers.

Subjective decisions have proved testing.

Suggestions of a replication of DRS in cricket or Hawk-Eye in tennis are understandable but both systems were created to rule on largely objective calls.

At present, being pro-VAR and anti-current application seems to where some supporters sit on the issue.

Last weekend, the threshold for overturning decisions was seemingly too high. This weekend, that same threshold, described by the Premier League as needing to be a 'clear and obvious' error, appeared to be dramatically lowered.

In the opening nine rounds of games this season - around 90 fixtures - not a single penalty or red card was awarded by the video assistant referee. This weekend, VAR gave four penalties and one red card.

Inside the stadium, there is no explanation as to why a certain verdict has been reached, with the 'computer says no' feel merely stoking that frustration felt by supporters.

Communication is key, particularly for those who matter most. Thousands of supporters depart with their hard earned wages every week, only to be rendered secondary to television audiences who are permitted replays of incidents.

The anger at VAR is with the ambiguity of it, a graphic doesn't answer questions and a decision is overturned without explanation. It needs to be deployed as a tool to help officials reach a verdict rather than a robotic attempt at re-refereeing the game.

As yet, technology hasn't made a positive impact in numerous countries, with it being a continually controversial and disputed part of the game.

In the Bundesliga 2, a Holsten Kiel substitute conceded a penalty whilst warming up as he touched the ball before it left the pitch. VAR gave that decision.

In Germany, there is rage, confusion and disbelief with fans, players, coaches and former referees united in their criticism of the Bundesliga's VAR system.

The relentless chase for perfection shouldn't come at the cost of enjoying the game.

Equally, this is a football industry which has been desperately clamouring for improvement in officiating.

In its current state, technology is not enhancing the game or improving the decisions reached on the pitch. In its current state, it won't attract more supporters but instead disconnect those who attend regularly.

The allure of a non-league world without VAR may prove too strong for some punters.

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