VAR – Clear and Obvious?

Another day sees another victory for top of the league Liverpool, as they finish the year with a 13-point lead and the title surely in sight.

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Sadio Mane’s goal in the first half gave Liverpool the 1-0 win over Wolves. However, travelling fans will go home feeling aggrieved after two VAR decisions were given against them for the second time in less than 48 hours.

The goal was surrounded by controversy after two alleged handballs in the lead up as one was ruled inconclusive and the other was controlled by the shoulder meaning the goal was given. Wolves then had a goal disallowed by VAR for a marginal offside against Jonny after what would have been Pedro Netto’s first premier league goal.

This decision however was the 5th goal disallowed due to marginal offside over the course of the weekend. Whilst VAR has split opinions, the general consensus is proving predominantly negative.

As I understand, VAR is worked out via a 3D grid system in where a camera takes 30 frames per second. During the time taken for each frame of each shot, a player running at a speed of 25km/ph can be moving up to 14cm per frame. So, although referee bosses may argue that the technology is almost 100 percent certain, the question is then asked as to how you determine that a player is offside by 3mm when there is a margin for error that could reach as big as 30cm.

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Onside. Onside. Onside. Onside. All in one weekend!

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VAR is said to be used to overturn a decision if a “clear and obvious error” has been identified but with the process taking so long to judge; the argument then arises as to whether these decisions are in fact both as clear and obvious as stated. Both fans and players do not want to be seeing goals ruled out by what is merely a toe out of place. When did we stop trusting the on-field referee with years of experience?  

As we meet the halfway point of the season; coaches, players and fans are still trying to understand the process that is VAR. Fans are chanting “F*** VAR” as well as “it’s not football anymore” in unison from St James’s Park all the way to The Vitality Staidum. The heroics of teams below the top 6 such as Wolves and Sheffield United are becoming frequently overlooked and their performances overshadowed due to the controversy caused.

Wolves Captain Conor Coady referred to the system as “ridiculous” as he claimed it was “not working”, while Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola called VAR “a big mess” despite the system ruling in their favour against Sheffield United over the weekend.

How often do you see goals being scored, going to VAR and not being given? There has been a total of 53 overturned goals this season. 32 of theses have led to goals being disallowed. Although VAR is looking like it’s here to stay; the thought on whether it benefits the beautiful game, remains inconclusive.