VAR day on JA: The History and the Success of VAR – IF IMPLEMENTED PROPERLY


Let’s first of all remind ourselves when video assisted reference was first available for us “flawed humans” to use for reference.

We can look back at some of the horrendous scenes from World War One for example, and even before that, to check out events, so we have grown up using this invention for well over a century.

Of course, we are looking at it from a sporting angle and we were able to see the devastation that the Munich air disaster caused for Manchester United, the burning down of the wooden stand at Bradford City’s ground and the horrific scenes at Hillsborough, when Liverppol fans were crushed to death.

We, as Arsenal fans, can also see the ball being a foot out of play, when Newcastle beat us 2-1 at Wembley in 1932, if only VAR was in use that day!!!

However, the first recognised use of this type of technology goes back to 2010, when it was trialed in the Netherlands for their internal foootball matches.

Fast forward to the 2017/18 season and we saw the Bundesliga and Seria A introduce VAR, followed by La Liga in 2018/19.

It wasn’t until the 15/11/2018 when all the PL clubs at that time voted for the system to be used for the 2019/20 season…but the PL referees association, under the leadership of Mike Riley, decided to introduce it in a different format to the leagues mentioned above.

The explanation for the term VAR (as given by the PL) is as follows:

“A Video Assistant Referee” is a match official, with independent access to match footage, who may assist the referee, only in the event of a ”clear and obvious error” or “a serious missed incident” in relation to (A) A goal or no goal (B) Penalty or No Penalty.

The VAR system was to be run by current or former referees only, under the auspices of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited… PGMOL used for abbreviation purposes.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 15: Referee Craig Pawson is appealed to by Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on January 15, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

So, how has the introduction of VAR helped the illustrious body of the PGMOL?

1. According to the PL website, before it was introduced, 82% of KEY match decisions were correct. Twelve months later, that figure had risen to 94%.

2. The total amount of VAR checks were 2,400 and the average delay was just 80 seconds.

3. The number of red cards decreased, along with the amount of fouls given.

4. Total playing time INCREASED BY 30 to 120 seconds on average and, for some weird reason, the second half of a game saw more added time given.

5. VAR saw the referees change their minds, on average, once every 3.29 games.

Following on from point 5, it turned out that PL referees had the lowest % of decisions overturned through VAR than any other European country, the figure being just 32%.

The reverse of this, however, is that the PL has had more VAR calls to look at, seemingly undermining the referee’s judgement more than any other european country.

So, these points from the PL official site are proof that VAR has been a success when apppied properly by officials who are getting paid £30,000 basic salary and £850 for every match they supervise said VAR.

So how does the new man in charge of the PGMOL, Howard Webb, feel about VAR? Here is his statement: “Good officiating starts on the field, with decisions that are taken on the field and VAR sits in the background as a safety net. A situation happens when a referee has not only NOT made the right decision, but has missed something very clear and obvious – ‘a clear and obvious error’ – and those things happen for a reason.

“Referees on the pitch have the final decisions”.

While an ex referee with enormous experience, Mike Halsey put it this way:

“I think it’s actually good for the game. The game is so quick today and, obviously, it’s difficult for refs to keep up with the game, which is end to end. We have tackles flying in, all sorts going on.

So I think it’s really good for the game, BUT ONLY IF IT’S IMPLEMENTED PROPERLY!!!” (I introduced the exclamation marks and capital letters for those who believe humans can’t do this, while Halsey obviously thinks they can).

That leads me on nicely to the VAR referee for our match agains Brentford on Saturday, Lee Mason (remember he was being paid £850 for this one game and a basic salary of £30,000) and was the first dedicated ex referee to be put on the VAR list.

His career in the black shirt, started way back in 1988 and continued in the PL from 2006 until his retirement from said PL in 2021. So I think we can say he was a very experiemced referee?!

It transpires that he has already been stood down once for an error, when he denied Newcastle a goal against Crystal Palace last September… but he was soon back in the role and only missed out on his £850 for a few games (not sure how many).

Mr Mason hails from Bolton and supports the Wanderers… interesting to note that Bolton is just 16 miles from Manchester and, of course, he ruled out Martinelli’s legitimate goal against…Manchester United… for which the PGMOL agreed was yet another error!!!

As the first dedicated VAR official, he must have been trained in all aspects of VAR and, let’s be honest, he knew the rules of the game anyway and all he had to do was use the system as it was intended and programmed to be used – but for some reason he forgot to do something that every other referee has done when checking whether a goal is legitimate. He forgot to check for any instance of offside!!!

Now, in all my years of watching football, Ive never come across a professional referee who hasn’t checked for offside and Mr Mason had all the tools he needed right there in front of him… VAR was ready to cut out any human error if, as Mike Halsey said IT’S IMPLEMENTED PROPERLY!!!

He failed to do the most basic of checks, a check that no one else has failed to do since VAR was introduced, as far as I could find out.

So let’s see what another former PL referee had to say about Mr Mason’s performance and here’s what Keith Hacket believes:

“Lee Mason should be sacked. This weekend Mason let another referee (not VAR please note) down, by not disallowing the Brentford goal for offside. Those are decisions that VAR should get right (IF IMPLEMENTED PROPERLY I have added).

Now, of course, it has been said by those who want VAR done away with, that, after five years, mistakes are still being made and VAR should be scrapped until human error is taken out of the equation.

Others say that it shouldn’t have been brought in until it was foolproof, that it takes up to much time, that it takes the excitement out of the game, that it hasn’t improved the game, that it takes away the authority of the referee on the field of play, and that the majority of people want it gone and demand a poll be taken to see what the fans think and quote “I want what is right and wise and truthful, irrespective of our team”.

Well that is what we ALL want and, as can be seen from above, so do the referrees, pundits, media and fans of the clubs.

The fact that on one weekend, two awful and avoidable mistakes were made by ex referees not following the rules, should not, and in my opinion, will not, derail the unquestionable success rate that VAR has brought to the game.

It just needs people in the hot seat of VAR decsions who are capable of following the rule book of both VAR and the rule book of football itself.

Here’s my final piece of ineresting trivIa, regarding VAR and who wanted it and didn’t want it:

Sepp Blatter was always against it, while Arsene Wenger was all for it’s implementation!!!

That really sums it up for me personally.


NB. I’ve just noted that John Brookes, the VAR referee who ruled out a goal after drawing the wrong offside lines against a Palace player this weekend, has been displaced for two PL games, one of which was our game against city!!!! JUST IMAGINE!!!

The appointments for the next round of PL matches are to be confirmed on Tuesday and to date, no action has been taken against Lee Mason!?!?

I have also noted that VAR referees are being assisted by former rugby league referee Phil Bentham…that speaks volumes in itself.


Tags VAR


  1. I agree with Wenger and we have benefited a lot from VAR technology

    But the VAR team led by Mason failed to spot that Norgaard was offside before making the cross for Toney, and it later emerged no lines had even been drawn to check for a possible offside

    So it was a human error which can be minimized by improving the technology. We’d probably have to replace most human officials with AI in the future

  2. Excellent article Ken.
    Really nice to get some facts on the table.
    For me they show a few things:

    1) VAR has increased the number of correct decisions

    2) VAR can never be perfect, so if we expect it to be, we will get disappointed

    However, I still think the subjective part might have to be adjusted, so VAR only assists by giving objective information to the referee.
    I.e. tell him if there was offside or not. That should be a clear objective decision, which, WHEN IMPLEMENTED PROPERLY, there can be no doubt.
    It is also objective information to let a ref. know, the ball has touched an arm or a hand. But it is never going to be objective or fair, if the VAR official goes beyond that, and makes the call, whether the arm was in a “unnatural position”. For me the VAR official should only ask the question to the ref, if he is certain he has seen the incident, and then the ref. himself should be able to go to the monitor and see a replay, if he wants to.
    Same goes with shirt pulls, tackles etc.

    1. The problem is that offside requires a subjective assessment since you also have to decide if the player was interfering with play.

      I’d allow VAR to go wherever it needs to go in order to get the right decisions and the right outcome in a game.

      1. I prefer no subjective assessment by the VAR official. If there is a player in an offside position, the VAR official can inform the ref. , there is/was a player in an offside position, and it is up to you to decide, if he is interfering or not.
        I think a lot of frustration and insecurity comes from more than the ref. having the right to make the subjective decisions.

        1. I’m not suggesting “by the VAR official”, he simply flags up matters for the ref’s attention, rubgy union-style.

          Then the officials discuss, everyone sees the footage they’re reviewing and hears their discussion… ref makes a final decision.

          The point is to surface incidents for consideration – the ref can’t see everything that’s going on, including off the ball stuff.

  3. VAR has indeed improved the accuracy of refereeing decisions. In this day and age, it is hard to envision any sport that has already implemented VAR to go back to the old ways and accept less accuracy, even if it improves the celebration experience

  4. Very well said Ken.

    It should be obvious to all that you don’t remove a technology that helps referees make better decisions… because they’re still making (some) bad decisions.

  5. Lee Mason is an experienced ref but also an old one who has retired. He is too old to run around the pitch but it is not just legs that fo as you get older. I am the same age and know my eyes are not as good as twenty years ago nor are my reactions. They should use current refs as VARs and rotate them around not use it as a way for older refs to extend their careers.

    Overall we need to be ruthless. Cut anyone who makes mistakes and even those who are slow. It is a specialist job and those who can
    not make correct decisions quickly under pressure need to be moved on. Perhaps some refs will be better at it than others, so keep them there rather than it being a reward for years of service on the pitch.

  6. Football is a money making business, so everyone involved in it shouldn’t have any immunity to scrutiny. Period. Aubameyang might have personal problem affecting his performance for Arsenal but Arteta stayed sensible and justifiably got rid of the human error. Now, the results are clear. Human errors can be solved by meritocracy and with responsibility. Not by AI. I’m a computer programmer. AI is just an another programme that can be set and manipulated to benefit certain agenda, just like voting or vote counting system. Because AI has no moral compass and can be corrupted by the same group that decided Lee Mason will be unpunished. But then again, the whole modern society are run by people who don’t face consequences of their own action. What do you think?

    1. Spot on re AI. It’s not anywhere near as capable as people believe and won’t be for some time.

      It’s possible to program rules into it – the Hawkeye thing is easy (did it cross a line or not) – but it’s not easy to have a computer make subjective decisions (“OK, he was offside but was he interfering with play?” kind of stuff).

      Also, deciding if that piece of human is a foot or a hand or a shoulder isn’t always easy for a computer. Training AI models helps but many of the apparently successful ones were pushing at an open door…

      I know of a ML routine that was seen to be very good at detecting and predicting water pipe leaks. A record of being 100% right. It became less impressive when you learn that water leaks are a bit like spiders – you’re never more than 8 feet from one. In fact if you moved your chair and dug a hole, you’d probably find a water leak.

      Humans with instant replay have become very, very good at decision-making in other sports, so there’s no reason why they can’t do so in football.

  7. I doubt that Mason’s support of Bolton is any reason to be suspicious, as Wanderers fans absolutely hate the Mancs.
    This weekend has been Howard Webb’s first real crisis since taking over from the hated Riley, with not one but three massively outrageous VAR catastrophes to deal with, and I think he’s handled it quite well by contacting the clubs to apologise & explain, meet with all of the VAR refs at Stockley Park and to (it would appear) suspend at least one of the incompetents. We’re not privy to the PGMOL disciplinary process, so may never know if there has been any extra fines or warnings etc, but I’d say those three are on a knife edge and any further transgressions will be the end of them, as it should be.

    1. Yet Jax, we know the punishment for one of the individuals, John Brooks, but not Mr Mason?
      Doesn’t that strike you as odd?

      I do agree that Howard Webb has handled the situation(s) well up to a point, unlike Mr Riley, who made the PGMOL untouchable.

      1. Based on your numbers Ken, it seems that this “suspension” adds up to an effective fine of £1700 (2 games’ pay). Presumably they still get tehir base salary

        If these are actual employees then it seems that they haven’t started the processes (verbal warnings, written warning etc) required in employment law. They just dreamed up some other thing to do to mollify a gullible public.

        The pay-per-game makes them sound like freelancers in some shape or form. Do you know if they are definitely on the payroll of PGMOL as permanent employees?

        1. IDKWIC, As Jax says below, the PGMOL are under no obligation to release information, something that Riley set up to cover the ineptitude during his term in office.

          They are funded by the PL, EFL and the FA, so l assume that is how they are paid – it’s so difficult to tie down facts regarding the PGMOL.

          1. This is further complicated by the situation that the refs are self employed as was revealed in a HMRC case in 2020.

            1. Ah that’s what I suspected from the £850 per game thing. Not many companies pay their employees bonuses in small chunks like that.

              So no disciplinary measures are actually needed then, they can simply terminate contracts for poor performance (that’s a standard clause in a “contract for services” – as opposed to an employee’s “contract of service”).

              1. I’m not really up on employment law, so assumed self employed and regular employees had similar entitlements re disciplines etc., but ending the contract makes more sense.

                1. It’s down to what their contract says, but I’ve neevr seen nor heard of any self-employed person having any employment rights whatsoever.

                  All the hullaballoo in the media over “zero hours” contracts are about that (and more).

                  That applies to both sole traders (under the Schedule D tax system) or those forced to go via a Ltd Co due to working through agencies, who won’t take the risks of being hit with the bill, so they force a Ltd Co on such people.

                  But they’re all in the same boat – no rights, so if the PGMOL people are employed that way they can be got rid of at the drop of a hat. If they have rights, they may be deemed to be employees for tax purposes (but it still doesn’t give them employment rights, such as fair dismissal, due process etc, it just makes them employees for tax purposes).

                  I wonder if that’s what the 2020 HMRC case was about (IR35). Did they win it?

                    1. Hmm they’re probably operating “inside IR35” now then – paying all the taxes of employment but still with no rights.

                      In which case, they can be hoofed whenever PGMOL wants. Maybe there’s a bit of cronyism going on there, it’s difficult to sack your old friends.

                      Or maybe Mr Webb is going through the process of getting the chaff out step by step – he also has to have suitable replacements lined up of course.

      2. I’m guessing that the only reason we know of Brooks is because he’s been removed from tomorrows game, and not because of any public announcement by PGMOL, and anything regarding Mason may only come to light in the same way when we see if he’s been suspended from games this wekend. As I said PGMOL are under no obligation to reveal disciplinary actions in the same way as all other companies have to respect their emplyees privacy rights.

          1. Ken, I’m reading in the Mail this PM that Mason will not be on duty this weekend (not unexpected all things considered), but bizarrely Brooks will be the 4th official at our game with Villa.

            1. The 4th official doesn’t do anything much though – deal with subs and such.

              Maybe it’s a penance to give Arsenal fans a chance to shout at him and chuck a few snowballs in his general direction 😉

      3. KEN It is predicted that Mason will find out this fate later today or at least by tonight. I will be surprised, very surprised, if Webb ,of all people especially haveing already punished Brook, leaves Mason in place . Simply a matter of when IMO.
        I also thought your article was, as is common with you, skilfully researched, even though I disgree fundamentally with your views, as we both already knew.

        1. Thanks Jon, some good viewpoints coming out of ALL of the VAR articles and, yes, we disagree once again!!

  8. Going by the stats provided in this article,it is fair to say that VAR has had a positive many have suggested,more training would be most beneficial on top of new implementations.we already have the semi- automated offside on its idea I’d like to see tried is “challenges” like in tennis,each manager/teams should have 2/3 challenges per game and like in tennis if correct you keep for Lee Mason,I read that the time he was taking to make the decision had an impact.lastly@Ken1945,I was surprised by the fact that you kept mentioning his salary(30k) as if it were I said before,when you consider the constant scrutiny refs are under and the impact on their families,the abuse,the strains on their mental health..I do not think it is that much.

    1. Yes £30k wouldn’t be much, only just over average wage last time I checked. However the £850 a game could add to that significantly depending on how many games they get per annum.

      I don’t really like the idea of challenges since it’s too easy to run out (for perfectly good reasons – it only takes a couple of close calls) and at the end of a game they tend to be used speculatively and tactically (to disrupt flow etc).

      Also, the same people would be doing the review!

      I prefer to pause the game to see what’s happened. The main issue for me is that people don’t get to see what they’re looking at or what they’re discussing – making their deliberations available would solve the issue to my mind. It makes watching rubgy *more* enjoyable in my view.

      I can empathise with football spectators being bored while they review incidents and their restlessness must translate to the officials and increase the pressure on them.

      1. @Gunsmoke,what would you prefer?waiting few minutes and have the correct decision made or have a shorter wait and end up with the wrong decision ?

          1. Waiting to get it right, of course. That’s what I’ve said here repeatedly.

            I’m not sure what made you think otherwise? I thought it was clear from the above when I said “I prefer to pause the game to see what’s happened” (I don’t mind how long it takes).

    2. Siamois, sitting in the comfort of a room, basically watching a television screen, does not compare in the slightest to a referee out on the pitch, where abuse etc happens.
      Jax has enlightened me as to how Mr Mason gets paid and I was highlighting said salary for our information as football fans.

      Nind you, as a retired ex referee (grade 1)I wouldn’t mind £30,000 a year plus £850 a game to watch a match and use technology to make a decision!!

  9. Delighted about this article as it was not just informative but very timely.

    Am not surprised to have learned VAR games decision are more accurate what I wasn’t aware of is the 94% accuracy rate it has achieved, this would mean VAR is here to stay as abandoning it would be like throwing the baby with the water out of the bathtub.

    I am of the impression incompetent and dishonest officials hide behind VAR as a result some radical changes is necessary.

    Three main areas of concerns I have in the modern game is time wasting, hand ball in the box and how the half side rules is use, and it here I think dishonest officials wet their bread.

    Interestingly the article mentioned the legendary Frenchman was a advocate of VAR, Wenger also suggested the half side rules should be change favoring the attacking side allowing more goals to be score hence making the game more attractive.

    Wenger half side rule was only when a line can be drawn between the two opposing players then that player can be rule half side.

    When watching the beautiful game and a goal is conceded by your team , one of the first thing we do is looking out for offside leading up to the goal hoping it will be disallowed as a result of off side, so to say that this minimum basic rule was not applied here is beyond me.

    There is no doubt refresher courses is needed but in some cases tough actions is necessary.

  10. I have read both articles by Jon and Ken and both have some valid points. Hence, I have decided to put my points to both in both articles. Sorry for the long post.
    For Jon
    Great article which I feel is from the heart. Football is all about passion from the heart.
    However, to your cause you have not pointed out some facts as below:-
    a) Football is not like watching a Whodunnit or a west end play. The outcome is undecided. So if a team scores first and let us say goes 2-0 in front, there is a smaller chance of a comeback if there is a long delay before declaring 2-1. Momentum is everything. It gives a higher percentage chance of the team scoring first than the comeback team which is what makes great memories. Thin of 199 final. Arsenal go 2-0 up. United come back to 2-2. Then Arsenal get the goal and win the FA cup with a Sunderland winner.
    b) If you take away the joy of enjoying a brilliant goal, then you are taking away a part of what makes a football fan. It is like a funny joke that is stated and we have to wait for the censorship brigade (of course there are certain jokes which are unacceptable but we are not talking about these) to see whether we can laugh or not regardless of whether it was funny or not. Spontaneous emotion is killed.

    For Ken
    Again a great article which was possibly more factual than Jon’s and a great read.
    Again I have 3 noticeable points as below:-
    a) Similar to point b for Jon, whilst more decisions are right than wrong does this VAR body of officials have the right to kill the spontaneous emotion? If it does let us go and watch a Whodunnit. It is more professional, gets more things right as there are takes and re-takes to get it right. Only negative is that it has a fixed outcome. Whereas, football does not have a fixed outcome and that is why I am a football fan.
    b) In the same vein as Jon’s point, the team that scores first has a better chance of winning as it slows the comeback momentum, thus making a better chance of a fixed outcome rather than an unknow outcome.
    c) In my view Sepp Blatter mostly talks crap and AW mostly talks sense but that does not mean AW has never talked crap and SB has never talked sense. So I do not know how that sums up everything.

    1. IGL, as the article was about VAR, I looked at what SB and AW said about it and drew my own conclusions.

      Are you saying that it is better to celebrate an incorrect goal spontaneously, rather than celebrating a goal once it has been proven to be correct and with even MORE relief and joy?

      Thanks for the reply of course.

      1. Sorry, but I forgot point B.
        Even before VAR, the team that scored first had an advantage and could slow the game down – remember GG and our famous 1-0 to The Arsenal chant?

        1. Sorry Ken, but I have to disagree with you.
          GG is the opposition to the team we are leading against. As somebody else would be our opposition. We have to outdo our opposition.
          But I do not like the establishment (i.e. VAR body) to be against the comeback team.

      2. Spontaneous is the reason for being a football fan. Yes there are times we get away with it and sometimes the opposition gets away with it. But it is talked about in the pubs for the whole of the week by fans and thus keeping football alive.

        Where I think VAR is essential is wreckless tackles. They are sometimes season ending and sometimes career ending.

        1. Addition to the talking in the pubs, the Germans still talk about the 1966 final on whether the goal that hit the line should have stood just like we talk about the goal that was probably 2 feet over the line against the Germans for the World cup held in South Africa.

          1. And it’s a completely futile discussion.

            If you think the priority for football’s existence is to generate controversy for pub discussion then that’s just about the weakest argument I’ve ever heard.

        2. “Spontaneous is the reason for being a football fan”

          Says who? That’s an assertion, plucked out of thin air and it seems you assume that you can speak for all fans.

          I can’t think of anyone (other than you) who would even put that on their list of reasons to watch football let alonbe at the top.

          There are some rather desperate lines of patter being put forward here!

      3. That’s actually a good question @Ken!
        What would people prefer?
        – to wait a bit longer and have the correct decision made.
        -a shorter wait and end up with the wrong decision(either way).
        Also would fans celebrate an incorrectly attributed goal or any others decisions in our favour?

        1. I think most people would choose to wait a bit longer for the correct decision.

          Unfortunately the choice isn’t that clear cut for most people.

          With every decision VAR officials get wrong, most people have less confidence that a longer wait will result in the right decision.

          That’s the rub.

          As a slight diversion, I’d like to see the conversation broadened to explore what else would help referees. Here’s my starter for ten:
          – clock stops automatically in last ten minutes plus injury time.
          – any player who is rolling around “injured” needs to have a medical evaluation and kept off the pitch for five minutes
          – teams can cite opponents for blatant cheating (eg diving) and a panel looks at it after games and dishes out retrospective cards/suspensions
          – only captain can talk to ref, anyone else gets a yellow card

          1. Agree with your suggestions. Would have the clock stop all the time when the ball isn’t in play though (Wenger is already moving forward on this).

            I’d add that (as in other games) the game cannot end unless the ball is out of play.

            The game cannot end if possession is with the losing team (even if out of play).

    2. I’m afraid I didn’t understand much of what you were trying to say in what you wrote above. The one question I can address is where you said this:

      “does this VAR body of officials have the right to kill the spontaneous emotion? ”

      Answer: Yes. Most definitely.

      That comes a long, long way behind getting the right decisions / outcome. And if you read my response to jonfox’s article, the killing of premature joy happens anyway without VAR (when the celebrations are cut short by the realisation that the linesman had his flag up).

      Sorry, but that’s a non-argument, which seems a rather weak attempt to divert the discussion onto emotive matters rather than logical/factual issues.

      1. That is a matter of opinion. DO NOT assume everyone has the same opinion as you.

        I believe they do not. That comes a long way behind keeping football alive in conversations in pubs (sometimes a century later).

        A linesman putting a flag up is something that does not happen everytime but a VAR check is there everytime.

        Does a linesman’s flag mean that an alleged foul committed by MO means Martinelli’s goal against Man Utd get ruled out several seconds later?

        The opposition has every reason to stifle your progress in scoring a goal. The VAR body of officials do not as it kills momentum.

        I would like VAR as I have sated earlier for wreckless tackles as safety of players is more important than the result in a game.

        1. It’s a matter of fact because the authorities have decided those are the priorities and because the majority of fans agree (in *every* poll on the subject).

          A VAR check may happen, but they don’t always intervene – just as a lineman checks the play every time but doesn’t always put up his flag unless he thinks there’s something to highlight. Just the same as VAR.

          The reason it might happen more with VAR is that they have the benefit of replay tech, linesmen don’t.

          Conversations in pubs is a ridiculous argument – the replays were always seen by the time any pub conversations were happening. Even before VAR people knew what *should* have happened a few seconds after the event, the conversation in pubs for years was usually along the lines of “This is ridiculous, why don’t we let refs see the replays?”.

          But my point was… your celebrations can be cut short with or without VAR, a point that you seem to be trying to slide away from.

          1. It is not a matter of fact as you put it.

            Conversations in Pubs and now on social media platforms is the main argument. The football gets talked about for the whole week. Sometimes not just the whole week but for years after. Example: Gerard’s slip leading to a Chelsea goal. It can be about a great flowing game. Now it is about the authorities creating a stop start game. Only the marginal decisions are talked about. About how we were robbed of 2 points. When you look at the game against Brentford, I have to say the Arsenal deserved no more than 1 point. In fact they deserved less. If they loose the title by 2 points, it is because of their play and not changing the tactics but not because of a ref decision.
            The point you are missing is a linesmen call does not drag the game back as far as an alleged foul by MO in the game against Man utd as was shown in Martinelli’s goal. f this was the case the goal by France against should have been chalked off because of a foul on Saka much earlier. So VAR is flawed if it can be dragged back to a goal but not for a free kick outside the box as it is not a goal even though the team can score a goal from a free kick.
            All these items do not arise by a linesmen raising a flag which you seem to have conveniently decided to ignore in your argument.

            Again you have also ignored the valid point of momentum in games where a stop start game prevents the momentum.

            The authorities do not have the right to change the game to a stop start game.

            Unlike the prevention of a goalkeeper picking up a ball from a back pass which was the norm before and now deleted to keep the game flowing.

            You have to read the whole piece not just a snippet to get a complete understanding of what is said in its context.

            1. Football is talked about in pubs… despite the fact that VAR exists.

              Having bad rulings and incorrect results of matches so that you can rage about it in the pub… yeah, good luck with that argument.

              The lineman often *did* drag the game back a long way. Sometimes the ref didn’t notice the flag being up for a while.

              People will still talk about Geread’s slip… but that has nothing to do with VAR or any decision-making process, its just an on-field incident. If anything it shows just how much more there is to talk about than bad decisions – you’re actually putting foprward an argument that works against your position.

              Your point about momentum doesn’t get to be valid because you say so, I don’t see it as important at all, at best a tiny issue in the scheme of things.

              Getting the right outcome is the primary objective to most people, which is why VAR wins in every single poll that’s been conducted (of a statistically significant sample of people, which is important).

              1. You obviously have chosen to ignore the points raised. I will repeat the questions that you ignored.
                Would a linesmen call have dragged back a game to an earlier foul many seconds ago (sometime in the other half) as is the case of MO alleged foul in the game against MU? Do you remember the incident.? Not answered.
                Despite VAR the goal of France against England stood. Why? Do you remember the incident?
                Why is the goal dragged back to an earlier foul several seconds earlier in the move when there is no drag back for a foul outside the area leading to a free kick which then subsequently gets scored (You could say that the award of the free kick was flawed because of a previous foul leading to it)?
                A corner which was never a corner leads to a goal, then is the goal chalked off because the corner initially given was incorrect?

                Changing the game by the authorities is the issue.

                The fact that the game is less talked about now and the marginal decisions are being talked about now is the issue because the game is being altered.
                How on earth can you say that momentum is not an issue is beyond me.
                So read again and then get back to me or do not get back to me and accept that I have valid points which happen to be contrary to yours and move on.

                1. “Would a linesmen call have dragged back a game to an earlier foul many seconds ago (sometime in the other half) as is the case of MO alleged foul in the game against MU? Do you remember the incident.? Not answered.”

                  Yes it was answered. Try reading it again. Here’s some help. Look for this:

                  “The lineman often *did* drag the game back a long way. Sometimes the ref didn’t notice the flag being up for a while.”

                2. “Changing the game by the authorities is the issue.”

                  That’s what they’re there to do? It’s their job.

                  The game suffered from ancient rules for a long time, seeing a willingness to change is a positive development.

                  1. You have not answered those examples of a linesman on 1 half whereas the incident is in the other half. It is possible and has been done but very rarely thus in general keeping the game flowing.

                    I agree with a willingness to change like the back pass rule to the goalkeeper to keep the game flowing. VAR should be used on the most important thing in the game (wreckless tackles: season ending or career ending). This is far more important than a call of whether it is offside or not.

                    There are tried and tested formulas in other flowing sports such as hockey where the teams have a limited number of referrals.
                    Also, the other suggestion is the addition of on-field linesman such as adding 2 more linesman so that each only covers 25 metres as referees cannot keep pace with the players.

                    I feel these measures would still give an accuracy rate of something around 90% accuracy.
                    With time and training, this accuracy would increase to 95% whilst maintaining the flowing game.

                    Striving for 100% accuracy at a cost of changing the game is not one that works for me.

                    But the essence will be to keep the game flowing and not give a helping hand to the opposition which is what momentum is all about which you did not seem to understand.

                    1. You can “feel” whatever you like, but the stats (which Ken posted) say otherwise.

                      If science were done on the basis of what people feel, we’d still be in the Dark Ages with alchemy instead of science.

                      You’re right about one thing – I certainly do not understand the premise that there is any actual *need* to keep a game flowing – any game or sport. Pausing to make tough decisions and make sure they’re right makes that pale into insignificance in terms of priorities.

                      As I said, I also think the rules of football are well overdue for change – even down to enforcing the rules we already have, such as those on non-contact. They’re not set in stone, nor should they be.

                      In US football, they have a rules committee who have a remit to set the rules to achieve an average of 35 points per game – that’s seen as the sweet spot between too much and too little, that’s about 5 touchdowns. It seems a reasonable approach to me.

                      Overall, I see the arguments of the anti-VAR crowd as desperate. Their case is somewhere between wafer-thin and non-existent, relying on weak arguments about delayed celebrations and concocted notions that keeping the game flowing is somehow important. Simply put: it just isn’t.

                  2. US football and normal football that Americans call Soccer are 2 different sports.
                    Game flow is very important as is momentum and emotion are part of football.
                    The fact that you admit that you do not understand things does not make an argument weak. There are other alternates whilst maintaining all of the above and improved accuracy rather than changing to a stop start which is the norm with US football.
                    How long have you been watching football and been a supporter? I am just curious. It may tell me more about your phsyche.

                    1. Sorry, momentum is not a necessary part of any game. You don’t get to simply assert that an d have it accepted.

                      If that’s your view then it is merely “your view”, it is not a fact. Not only do I disagree, I see is a rather bizarre statement that only comes about when peoplpe with an emotive loathing of VAR are desperately scratching around for a way to make some kind of case (because that’s all they have – there is actually no reasonable case to be made against VAR).

                      If you’re right that it’s an essential part f the gaem… then why do the authorities not see it that way? Because it’s quite clear that they don’t… or they wouldn’t have introduced VAR.

                      Sorry to say, you’re just making stuff up. In a way it’s a waste of time, but it does at least get people to ask the question about the anti-VAR crowd “Is that really all they’ve got?”.

                      Oh and by the way – trying to suggest that emotion has disappeared because of pauses is also ridiculous. As we can see, football with VAR generates a lot of emotion!!!

  11. It’s a good article. Just wanted to add two points that I don’t think have been mentioned in the VAR articles today, as they’re not highly relevant to the recent issues we’ve seen:
    1) in the past people complained that referees never admitted they were wrong and there was no transparency – now they are admitting it and trying to be transparent, it would be nice if that was at least acknowledged. It’s a good thing
    2) a problem with football, being a semi contract sport, has always been that there is a degree of subjectivity when it comes to what it’s a foul and what isn’t. You can show two fans or referees the same incident and one will say it’s a clear (and obvious) foul, and the other will say it was soft – play on. I don’t see how that will ever be overcome as football simply can’t become a non contract sport and still be football. There will always be controversy to some degree and I believe it’s part of what makes football compelling.

    1. Agree on your first point – although perhaps it’s got so bad now that it’s indefensible.

      Re your point 2 – actually, football is supposed to be a non-contact sport. A shoulder charge (shoulder to shoulder) is the only permitted contact.

      It’s just that refs gradually let them get away with more and more until things became ridiculous in the 1970s and 80s – Maradona was kicked to bits over his career – at least now they provide some protection for skilful players.

      It seemed to be only in the men’s game though.

      I’d like to see them make a rule that players must be on their feet to play the ball (no more slide tackles) and any non-shoulder contact is immediately a foul. No more wrestling.

      It would take a lot of subjectivity out of it. However, as you say there will probably always be subjectivity (was he interfering with play?) and sometimes the rules themselves make things worse e.g. “was it deliberate handball?” how can we know what was in someone else’s mind?).

      That’s probably behind the rule change that makes it the player’s responsibility to keep his hands out of the way.

      But since it’s always difficult, it’s much more difficult if you have a split second to see it and decide – VAR helps refs see it again, from many angles, hear from other officials… and only then come to a decision.

      It works well in other sports, football can do it too.

      1. To my understanding, football is semi contract because you can’t avoid making contact to get the ball. There’s not a realistic way you can consistently tackle an opponent without touching them at all – it just has to be incidental contract in taking the ball, rather than intentional contact with the man (which is what used to happen to players like those you mentioned).

        Non contact would be something like tennis, whereas full contact would be rugby, I suppose.

        1. I’m sorry, but your understanding is not correct. Football is a non-contact sport (or supposed to be!).

          And of course you can “get the ball” without making contact (I assume you mean making contact with part(s) of another player’s body). In fact that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do – when someone puts a foot in to tackle someone, if they get (say) the player’s ankle then it’s a foul. Don’t we all know that? I’m surprised we’re even having this conversation.

          When a player runs with the ball and another player comes up alongside, he can charge shoulder-to-shoulder (that’s legal even if the other guy ends up in the stands) but he can’t start putting an arm in front of the player in possession, leaning on him or any form of contact other than the shoulder charge.

          And the man in possession can’t push the other guy away with his arms.

          Gradually over time players pushed the boundaries and sorting out who started it became difficult and led to the free-for-all kind of wrestling that now goes on all the time. Basically, referees have given up trying to enforce the rules, except in clear-cut cases – but they are still the rules.

          The wrestling stuff only really seems to be a problem in men’s football. My dad watches other types of football and he describes women’s football as “watching the game being played how it’s supposed to be played, without all the wrestling, cheating and spitting”.

          1. Everything I’m reading says football is officially a contact sport. I’m no expert on the subject, but that would seem to be correct.

            “And of course you can “get the ball” without making contact (I assume you mean making contact with part(s) of another player’s body)… ”
            Yes, you can in some cases, but not always. When you’re running alongside a player in possession it’s often not possible to tackle them without making contact because their momentum is in the same direction as point where the tackle must be made.
            Shielding the ball involves contract, often initiated by the player in possession. It’s part of the game.

            1. Well, shielding the ball is part of the game, but you’re not supposed to be able to just manhandle the player in possession to negate his skill in doing that!

              One correction to what I said earlier – while looking for a definition (on contact vs non-contact) via online searches the Professional scouting web site says that modern referees would interpret a valid shoulder charge as “expecting the player to have at least one foot on the ground and not to use excessive force”. So if he ended up in the stands, it wouldn’t be ok!

              It seems there’s a lot written about the contact vs non-contact issue, not much of it’s very definitive though. One piece even suggested that any contact with anything makes it a contact sport, so if players sometimes come into contact with the posts then it’s a contact sport. I wasn’t very impressed lol. It’s like callin snooker a contact sport because player once tripped over his cue.

              It seems there’s no way to get to a resolution on this one, other than by going through every single rule to see what it says about contact… so maybe best to leave it there?

              You’re right in your reply below that there was drift into physicality before the 70s/80s. Pele certainly did get roughed up at times. I’d like to see them pull this right back to being much more of a game of skill and cut out the cheating.

              1. I agree it’s not clear cut regarding the contact vs non contact question – I’ve heard someone call it semi contact in the past, and I think that makes sense. It’s not like rugby where contact is absolutely necessary

      2. Agreed with your point on VAR making it easier, btw, but i can’t see the game being compelling without slide tackles and a degree of contact being acceptable – it should, however, always be incidental contact.
        Refs were definitely letting things go as early as the 60s – I suspect from much earlier, but can’t confirm – Pele got kicked off the park in ’66 and famously praised Bobby Moore for being a fair player (because many other defenders weren’t). Even the goal Pele scored where he lobbed it over a defender and volleyed into the bottom corner involved a thigh – high kick on him (which doesn’t get noticed because he stayed up and scored a great goal), and that was in 1958 I think

    1. Jen, I’ve been looking for your comments, thanks for the 5.

      I assume, when you write “tool”, you mean VAR and not Lee Mason?

      I’m pleased to read that you agree it’s a human error and not VAR.

      How much longer? I guess the answer is until we get personnel who can use the system correctly…. but I think you would agree that going from a record of getting 82% of key decisions correct, to 94% since VAR was introduced, is a very good start wouldn’t you?

      It does seem that the odd 6% involves The Arsenal an awful lot, but the concensus seems to be that there is no conspiracy against our club… do you agree with that as well?

      I noted your view that VAR is derailing our title bid, do you think that city would also claim the same, after united were allowed to equalise?

      Really would like to know your thoughts on all four questions.

      1. Bring up all the stats you want, football is less enjoyable since VAR’s introduction.

        A point, VAR zealots gloss over. Constantly stopping the game, but not the clock, which is at the fans expense (literally), has not added anything positive to the game.

        Not EVER being able to properly celebrate a goal anymore, is not fun.

        In 5 years, the key decisions have only got worse. This season has been horrific! The percentages mean nothing in all honesty, because we have been seeing those percentages, or better, without VAR. Although I get your point of showing an improvement over time.

        No one can say for sure if there’s a conspiracy against us, unless you watched all the games. It just feels as if there is as we all watch the Arsenal games, and comment on that. Is there bias though? 100% yes! Utd didn’t go around a decade without a pen against them at Old Traffold without bias.

        I think any team would complain, especially at the end of season, if the margins were that tight between success and failure, and you’ve lost out on 4 or more points because of VAR, which would be effective to two or more results. going against you.

        I hope that answers your questions.

        Just one for you.

        Ignore the stats for moment. Just on pure emotion and enjoyment of football. Do you think it’s better with VAR?

        1. Thanks Jen.
          Constantly stopping the game? How many times per game that stops the flow and makes it a”constant”happening?
          More than 5?
          The average stopping time is a minute.
          I can’t recall the any game that has used VAR that amount of times in as much that we, the fans, were aware off.

          I totally agree with you, however, about adding ANY time on, when the ball is out of play, but the powers that run English football refused to dopt the way the last World Cup added time on…. that’s not the fault of VAR as it doesn’t and cannot make any decisions, can it?

          I also agree with your view on the United conspiracy thoughts and I wonder how many penalties have been given against united, at home, since the introduction of VAR?

          Now, to answer your question.
          No, because we are now seeing an increase in the correct decisions being made (94%) and the fact that it is The Arsenal not getting the rub of the green is very frustrating and, if we miss out on the PL title because of those decisions,, I will be as livid as you.
          But VAR is here for the good of the game overall and the stats prove that without a doubt.

          1. I do not deny that figure of 94% you quote, but what is the criteria for a correct decision? Was it an independent analysis, or was it in-house?

            I am not talking about black and white decisions like offsides, as that could be automated like goal line tech in the future. I am talking about subjective decisions.

            The reason I question this so called high success rate is that we’re seeing horrific decisions most weeks throughout the 5 year period. So if they have been making the wrong calls on obvious incidents (e.g. Souchek handball against Chelsea), that even a child could get right, they will obviously be making even more wrong decisions on those tighter calls.

            So I do question those stats. And if Arsenal lose out on the title by say 5pts (and that’s not even including the likely hood of more VAR drama to come), then VAR would have played a key role.

            1. The criterion for deeming a decision to be “incorrect” is clearly that the team who reviews these matters sees a clear error in the judgement of the game officials (including the VAR people and the on-field referee who has the final decision).

              When they apologised for the 6 errors, they were focusing on those as being “game changing” errors, which implies that there are other which were less impactful.

              They’re not concerning themselves with close-call judgements, only the obvious ones.

              If rules are too subjective then the rules need to be looked at, throwing out review technlogy (which can only help get calls right) is clearly not the answer.

    2. Imagine if young people were not discouraged by all the abuse, pressure…and able to take up refereeing/ VAR (training) at 15/16 the time they were to reach the PL/Championship levels..say at 28/29/30 years old,in peak physical fitness and experienced.we would definitely end up with better officials.

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