Absolutely VAR-sicle – Joe’s Blog

Published: 20/02/2024
By Joe Wood.

Sky have long branded any Sunday with football on its channels, as “Super Sunday”, and this Sunday was no different.

No matter how often you look at the fixtures on offer and ask yourself “Really? Sheffield United Vs Brighton? And that’s ‘super’?”, Sky will relentlessly follow the build up of it being the clash of the season.

Needless to say, as a football fan, we often buy into this rhetoric and hype, and find an angle in which the game in question can appeal to us. Be it from a tactical standpoint, watching a specific player that you think will be a star or just because you want to see a certain side get an absolute drubbing. We all have different reasons for watching games that aren’t our team, and sometimes it’s just as simple as “there’s f-all worth watching on the other 269 channels I pay for, so I might as well watch this.”

This was the position I found myself in around half 1 on Sunday afternoon, so I threw on Sky Sports Premier League and knew little more than someone would be playing someone else at that time.

I was nonplussed by the fact it was Sheffield United and Brighton, but Roberto De Zerbi has Brighton playing some lovely stuff, and Chris Wilder appears to be the only number that the Sheffield United recruitment department have, as he keeps getting the same job on a loop, like a hideous footballing groundhog day.

Everything was pretty routine and, dare I say, rather boring and predictable until the 13th minute, when Bruce Lee, cunningly disguised as Mason Holgate, launched himself at Karou Mitoma’s femur.

It was an absolute horror tackle. Genuinely, you’ll struggle to see a worse tackle this season. I implore you too seek it out, it’s actually a miracle that Mitoma’s knee/leg didn’t snap in half. Even more miraculous is that Mitoma, if anything, didn’t make enough of a deal of it, because the referee only saw fit for a yellow card initially.

This is where the EFL and Pompey angle comes into it.

Upon review, and it really didn’t take long, Holgate was rightly shown a straight red card and Sheffield went down to 10 men for the next 80+ minutes. However, had that tackle occurred in Pompeys game Vs Reading the day previous, the yellow card would have stood and the player would have got away with one of the worst tackles of the decade.

VAR has it’s detractors, and I’m often one of them (that’s mainly because it’s being used completely incorrectly in my eyes), but when something like this happens, it’s very easy to see why the powers that be want it implemented. Ultimately, the right decision was reached, and justice was done.

But, at Fratton Park and everywhere below the exalted 20 who conform to different rules surrounding almost everything, justice wouldn’t have been served and it would have had a massive impact on the game.

The argument that there isnt the technology present at the games is frankly laughable. Every club, bar a select few, have iFollow, and literally every club features on the nightly highlights show, so there is no argument that cameras aren’t at the ground. Why isn’t that feed shown on a monitor beside the pitch?

Tom McIntyre wouldn’t have seen red on his debut, albeit immaterial given his meringue ankles. The “tackle” the broke Louis Thompsons leg against Bristol Rovers last season would have had steady review. Blackpool scoring a goal from a player who was at least 4 yards offside, wouldn’t have got close to counting.

It’s another example of the haves (the Premier League) and the have nots (the EFL and everyone else). In fact, surely the most egregious example of this has to be the fact that in this last week, we have seen a “goal” that might not have been a goal.

Cambridge scored a goal, that in all honesty, not a single one of the 19,000+ in attendance could say with 100% that the ball crossed the line. Those watching on iFollow were no better placed either, but surely the goal was given because the referee’s watch buzzed to indicate a goal?

Well, no, not exactly, because at every level below the championship, goal line technology isn’t in use.

But why isn’t it? It’s an absurd situation when over half of the League 1 teams have spent part of the last decade in the Championship or higher.

If the EFL and FA were serious about “getting it right”, they would be funding the installation of, at the bare minimum, goal line technology in every club entering the EFL structure. Even if it was in the form of loans that clubs paid back after 3 years in the EFL.

Cast your mind back briefly to the days before VAR, and the biggest voices of opposition to it were citing that it makes the game too different from what happens on Hackney Marshes every Sunday. But now, with its introduction, it’s not just a different game to those playing for their local pub team on a Sunday, it’s a different game for those playing in the second tier and below, and how can that be right?

Change has to happen, and it’s either you bin VAR, or everybody gets VAR, this idea of the Premier League being the only league where decisions have to be correct is absurd.

The Championship is the 17th richest league in the world. Not 17th richest Football league in the world, 17th richest. Beating the National Rugby League, and Big Bash League in Australia, which are huge sports, and the Top 14 in France, which is the the premier rugby competition in the world.

Why did I pick out those leagues from the list? Because all of those leagues feature video assistance. If they can do it, why can’t the Championship?

And, League 1 sits in 40th. One place behind Premiership Rugby. Which, you know, has video refereeing.

If these leagues, with similar, or smaller revenues can get VAR, there is no excuse for the EFL, outside of pure bullishness that their referees are always right.

Well, as we have seen all to often in this division, they are often woefully inept and not up to the task.

It’s time for the EFL to wake up, and start to step into the 21st century. It’s time for VAR