Arsenal Debate; Should VAR be done away with Right now?

Does VAR work? by Jon Fox

Gooners who read my regular posts will already know that I have been firmly against the way VAR has ruined and continues to ruin the spirit and fan enjoyment of our world game.

There are a number of very valid reasons for my belief, and I now examine them all and wish to lay out all the negatives I constantly see and also examine the lesser case FOR VAR, as some will try to argue for it.

I always appreciate balance in JA articles and often say so publicly, so it would be remiss not to at least attempt some balance of my own in this piece.

Before going further, I need to make it clear that I obviously want the correct ref decisions made and loathe howlers, as we all surely do.

VAR was brought in to simply eradicate howlers, but it has far outreached that modest aim and has sunk its greedy and unwanted tentacles deep into the flesh of our beautiful game and is steadily devouring it from the inside and leaving a stale, frustrated and outraged sense of sheer helplessness from the fans.

And we fans ARE the lifeblood of the game.  It will not survive without us, but that seems to have been completely overlooked. Quelle Surprise!  NOT!!!

Just as our wishes in so much else about the game we own and keep alive are also ignored as being the bleatings of little people with no individual financial power and therefore of little value to the tyrants who misrun our sport.

Fellow Gooners, I do not, never have and never will accept being bullied by financially rich corporates and organisations that arrogantly think they own the game and give no thought at all to what we fans want. I believe in fighting my corner and giving those who try to bully those like us who love our beautiful game, a metaphorically bloody nose (sadly not possible physically!).

Far be it from me to ever big up that ghastly self-publicist Piers Morgan, but he too has said the whole damned concept of VAR is not fit for purpose and should not have been brought in. And on that, almost uniquely, in his case, I agree with him!

My friends, we would surely agree that the spirit of the game is important to protect. Some of you may not, but I sincerely believe most of us firmly do wish to protect this spirit. How in God’s name can anyone protect the spirit of our game when a goal can be ruled out on a subjective call, repeat a SUBJECTIVE call, from a second referee, who is looking and for ages too, at another screen – until after the decision has been overturned. And in 99% plus of cases, when the on-field ref is summoned, not asked by the way, but summoned, to endless second looks on the touchline screen while we poor “jerks” twiddle our thumbs and scream out in numb disbelief, the second SUBJECTIVE opinion overturns the original.

And very often, the original decision is seen to have been the correct one all along. Like this weekend just gone, with the scandalous second opinions foisted on bullied refs- Michael Oliver was a SOLE brave ref who stuck to his guns about   the handball penalty he gave being correct, as indeed it was. This nonsense is NOT a price worth paying.  It ruins the all-important passion and instant excitement of when a goal is scored and spoils the rightful ecstasy of fans watching. It also ruins the flow, and the all-important fast pace of Prem matches.


And as we Gooners all know, it cost us a goal at Old Trafford with Martinelli, on a SUBJECTIVE call from a second ref, who saw it differently from the on-field ref. No wonder Moyes of West Ham was spitting blood when they were denied a perfectly good goal, awarding our bitter rivals Chelsea two extra undeserved points, which may yet cost us at season’s end. And this nonsense goes on unhindered almost unchallenged, week after nonsensical week while we “mugs” have to grin and bear it. I say we do NOT HAVE TO DO SO. We SHOULD fight for the return of our beautiful game and not succumb to this tyranny and unfairness.

Now some will say “ah but it gets the right decision, almost all of the time”! I say ‘it patently does not!’, but even on the occasions it does, it takes far too long! It undermines and massively so, the valuable authority of the on-field ref who should be in SOLE CHARGE. He should not have his homework PUBLICLY marked by an often-faulty examiner, who takes several minutes to come up with the wrong decision, which he then foists on all but the bravest refs, who meekly submit to this tyranny. Poor cowardly suckers!

Now to Devil’s Advocate time, as I attempt to put forward a case FOR VAR, that I plainly do NOT believe in, so here goes, in an attempt at balance: on field refs have an almost impossible job and cannot win with all spectators, no matter what they do or do not. One team’s fans or the other will always slate them. VAR does give the on-field refs an out; they can claim they were    under pressure, intolerable pressure, to change their original decision and that they eventually gave the right decision, thus   getting justice, even though it is delayed justice.

To that I would say that this: IF – as in goal line technology, which I agree works wonderfully well – all other VAR decisions were technologically advanced enough so that an uncontroversial correct decision could be transmitted to the ref, INSTANTLY, without a Stockley Park middleman to confuse and spoil things, that would be ideal.

VAR OUGHT to have waited until technology became so sophisticated as to be like goal line technology in giving an instant, definitely correct, non-subjective, correct call, to the on-field ref.

THEN and ONLY THEN, WOULD I be in favour of VAR. I began this piece by stating I am in favour of the correct decisions, and I MEAN IT. But my fellow Gooners, we are being taken for a ride and having our enjoyment spoiled, which we pay through the nose for, even if we only watch TV sports packages, let alone pay for ground admission- the sheer cost of which is yet another monstrosity which I will tackle next week, after I return next week from my mini break away from JA.

Finally, though I will not be able to read replies until next week (I shut down all social media, family apart, when on hols) I welcome replies that go to the trouble of explaining properly why they either agree or disagree with my opinions.


Jon Fox


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  1. VAR should only be used in handball, Offside, dangerous challenges and Possible fouls in box which could led to Penalty situation…
    But it shouldn’t be used in middle of park for hustle and tussle play…
    Shouldn’t be used for pushing and shrugging in an open play

      1. Humans make mistakes. Or are subject to bias. A recent study of var use in europe where it’s been in use longer than the epl has shown several trends: mainly, that decisions strongly favour home teams, that decisions too often favour ‘big’ clubs, that it has a negative effect on the flow of the game. The first two show its had no effect, at all, on existing issues with refereeing. The third shows that, as var critics warned, its primary effect is to damage fan enjoyment. Bad decisions will always happen while humans are involved for a variety of reasons. What we are saying is, is the price worth paying for an issue that only computerisation could eradicate.

  2. In terms of the fairness of the game the use of VAR is better than no VAR. Its like a hung parliament where some unwanted things may be passed and that may cause the public to believe opposing sides are making deals between themselves whereas those things would’ve easily been passed with a majority and gone unchallenged. In the same vein, VAR in itself causes a lot of things to be exposed and challenged and thus in terms of fairness it will always do more good than bad. However, to the fan the use of VAR can be tiring as it is not instant. The subjectivity part is also a problem and can lead to wrong calls being made. Imo it should be used but the area of application should be reduced to mak it more definite.

  3. It definitely requires technological improvement, but it’s currently good enough to minimize human errors

    Without VAR, there were too many dubious decision about offside goals. VAR has generally made EPL more fair

  4. I was originally in favour of VAR. It seemed scientific. Either offside or not, either a foul or not. After watching it for so long I realise leopards don’t change their spot’s. It is as unconsciously predudiced as ever before. It cannot work…why….people have an ego gland that supercedes their honesty. The truth is that referrees are trained to be honest and neutral……but they are not. We see it every week. Such a shame because a scientific, factual VAR is needed, but instead it is as biased as ever.

    1. But it’s difficult to take away human emotions from all that concerns judgement. The problem is defining the rules properly so as to get to what we desire as closely as possible. It can never be perfect. Var still has a lot of challenges to be near perfect.

      There was a soft fault by Odegaard on Sunday; he himself admits and we all saw it. However that was only one isolated incident of the game.

      We entertained the viewers with great football but that wasn’t Ten Hag’s goal. He was simply the better technician and read the whole game before throwing his players into the pitch. Our technician didn’t do that.

      Ten Hag knows us for high press and educated his players to use counter-attacks with Rashford in charge of that mission. We opened our backyard and the mission was executed.

      Counter attacks have been killing us for a while and until we resolve that, progress is not possible.

  5. Imo, VAR is not a problem. After watching European games, the people in charge of their VARs are far better and usually come to their decision quicker.The problem over here lies with the people who operate it at Stockley Park.

  6. For Jon Fox
    As with an earlier article that you did almost a year ago, I am on the fence again. It is neither good or bad. Maybe 49% good and 51% bad.

    My take is that VAR is required for:-
    a) Goal line decisions.
    b) Check if the ball has crossed the line for a cross or has the ball gone out of play and then come back in to the field for a goal.
    c) Bad tackles (i.e. yellow card instead of red cards).
    Var is not required when:-
    a) It stops momentum of a team that is coming back from 2 goals down.
    b) MacAllister’s goal for Brighton was an absolute peach. How can that be chalked off. Imagine Ecstasy to absolute despair. Do fans need this rollercoaster ride?
    c) Do fans have to wait for referee decision to decide whether we can celebrate or not?

    It is definitely against the spirit of the game. This is one of the few times I agreed with Sep Blatter in that controversies are part of the game. We can talk about it for ages after the game is over in the pubs, clubs and homes.
    But you are going to get more wrong decisions than right.
    It is football.

  7. VAR simply allows those making the decisions to see what actually happened. VAR does not make decisions in itself (goal-line tech being the only possible exception, but that’s a choice that’s been made, it’s not a given).

    The problems are with the *process* that’s being used with the technology, not the tech itself.

    – Spectators in the stadium don’t see replays (FIFA claims it would cause refs to be influenced by fans shouting – not an issue in other sports).

    – Refs sometimes brush aside requests to view VAR from the VAR ref.

    – Officials don’t work together – in rugby for example the ref consults the linesmen and the VAR official in order to arrive at a decision (but it’s still his decision). Specs get to hear their conversation too.

    – The biggest issue: there are too many *utterly bizarre* decisions made. This is a refereeing quality issue, not a VAR issue. Most decisions are not subjective, they are simply a matter of applying the rules and it seems that everyone can see the right ruling… except the widget who made the decision. The point above (consultation between the officials before a decision is made) would improve the decision-making a lot.

    – The rules themselves are often not good. Anything calling for a subjective assessment is a poor rule (and that subjective assessment will still be necessary, VAR or no VAR because… the rule will still be there).

    – Many pundits wrongly equate poor rules with a VAR issue (I heard one say “But only one foot is offside, VAR shouldn’t call that offside” – but… but… VAR didn’t do that, the people making the rules did that and the people reviewing the footage made the decision. VAR just shows what happened.

    – Even with ALL of those issues, VAR has still improved the number of “bad calls” over the no-VAR situation. That fact alone tells anyone with a clear mind that the technology must be retained.

    Other sports use VAR perfectly, their procedures work very well, football should copy what works rather than try to re-invent the wheel.

    Sorry Jon, but you didn’t make a very good job of presenting the case for VAR. IT’s here to stay, discussion should be about how best to make it work.

    1. Very we’ll said, VAR system is perfectly fine but it’s the law makers and then the law interpreters that are the issue. They are about as reliable as your average politician.

  8. The technology VAR is not the problem, rather the people managing VAR are the problem. Getting rid of VAR now is going to worsen the situation.
    Just like a musician once said; “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

  9. VAR and appointed referee personnel who manage the device should in my own opinion not be discarded away with from continuing to deploy them from operating the using of the Video Assistant Referees Device to help officiate games in the EPL. So as to continue to assist the match centrereferees and their two assistants arrived on the correct refereeing deacons which they should have made, gotten wronged or missed to see when refereeing in matches.
    But the use of the electronic visual display device by those who are placed inchaege of it’s usage MUST be properly trained and periodically be made to go through refreshal courses. So that they can always be refreshed and update themselves to improved on their competence on the efficiency of operating the machine device properly to eliminate generating ranqours and discredit outrages from the game watchers.

  10. Two magic word – CLEAR and OBVIOUS.

    If it isn’t a clear and obvious mistake, don’t overrule it. And yes there is subjectivity to what is clear and obvious but there is also something called common sense. If you need to spend two minutes looking at something from four different angles in super slow motion, it ain’t a clear and obvious mistake.

    At least four goals (a key reason most of us watch football) were ruled out this weekend because of reversals in referees’ on-field decisions. None were clear and obvious.

    As others have said, VAR isn’t the problem The muppets running the show are the problem.

  11. Apart from more competent officials, I would like to see a similar system that Cricket uses. Each captain is only allowed to challenge the Referees decision twice during the game. If successful they can keep their challenge. To stop last-minute time wasting no challenges would be allowed after 80 minutes,

  12. Jamie VARdy should leave football and start playing another game (battleships?).

    On another note, loving watching Phil Foden in the city vs Sevilla match. What a player this ‘kid’ is! So young yet already so experienced, poised and sublimely talented.

  13. The only problem I have with VAR is that when a goal is scored they review the passage of play beforehand to see if there is a reason to disallow the goal, how far back do you go, if the passage of play before the goal is scored lasts 5 minutes is it fair to review it that far back when the referee hasn’t seen anything wrong. Surely that is NOT what VAR is for.

  14. VAR, doesn’t allow for action in real time so I’m not totally comfortable with it. Also I think asking for competent officials who are not going to make erroneous decisions is a pipe dream. It’s never going to happen. I almost miss the bad old days. The refs often got it wrong but the idea was that in the end these decisions tended to balance out, and there was a lot to discuss after the game. My take is that VAR should only be used for goal line reviews and offside clarification. Beyond that the game should be allowed to flow.

  15. Imo one of the big problems is that many of the rules of the game are inherently subjective. Where is the line between an acceptable level of contract and an unacceptable level? People will always see it differently.
    Imo VAR does reduce the number of blatantly “incorrect” calls, but it’s still run by humans – they will go overboard at times, and be too soft at others (by the estimation of most). Without VAR, those occasions are simply more frequent. VAR also gives extra eyes for incidents that are outside of the referee’s own vision. To get rid of it now due to a relatively small number of mistakes would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater – it has saved us from poor decisions far more than it has harmed us in recent seasons imo, those times are more easily forgotten though

    1. An excellent point brought up in a review of var in europe. The laws of the game are very subjective, and each ref interprets them slightly differently. As such one ref will give a penalty in one game, then in the same situation in another the ref will refuse one. Var has done nothing to improve the game on terms of ‘correction’ of decisions as they are still just as subjective as before it was introduced. We are stuck with it, as it ‘adds drama’ which is what the games bank rollers want, and frankly they are happy with the controversy. If the football authorities and fans had any say, var would be kept, but only used in the event of clear and obvious mistakes, and time to review limited to no more than two minutes.

      1. Yes, that is a root cause of the problem.

        They tinker with some rules to try to fix them (for example, handball being “deliberate” needs a subjective assessment) but they rarely improve matters.

        One aspect that has *become* subjective, which was never really intended to be, is foul play. Players have gradually turned what is supposedly a “non contact sport” into a game with a strong physical element.

        The original rules really only allow for a “shoulder charge” but players started sliding into tackles, pulling and barging to the extent that if a ref took action every time we’d be playing 5-a-side by half time in very match.

        The only way to fix this is really to bite the bullet and let that happen – there will be howling and wringing of hands in some quarters, cries of “ruining the game” but soon enough teams will adapt – because it will be adapt or die, nature’s rule of survival.

        Football referees are among the weakest in any sport, but they have a lot of aggression to deal with from fans and players, so perhaps VAR can help here too…

        With technology, the VAR referee doesn’t need to be in the stadium, in fact he can be miles away, even in another country. That removes and intimidation factor and frees them up to make decisions without influence.

        I also think the football authorities should start retrospectively taking action against players for barging, shirt-pulling, grappling and grabbing other players, adding up very small minor offences into bigger ones that result in players being banned for periods of time.

        BTW The sliding tackle should be banned completely. Players should always be on their feet when playing or attempting to play the ball – that makes it much easier to call a foul – apart from all the other obvious benefits.

  16. Excellent topic and many good points.
    There is something fundamentally wrong with a system, where a ref sits miles away from the game and makes subjective decisions, which can be decisive for the games outcome, without having to stand up for the decision and look the players and coaches etc. in the eye.
    As long as there is a subjective element, it will never work without obvious bias.

  17. After reading as much as I could bear of the woolly witterings of the resident muppet Smith (two whole sentences), I just had to check here and…

    At the point in time that I’m writing this, I see that there’s no post by him in this thread, instead the self-important twerp goes and writes another long and waffly article of his own.


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