Football supporters' survey gives overwhelming thumbs-down to VAR use - and Sheffield United fans won't argue
Just over a quarter of football fans support the use of VAR technology in the game, a survey by the Football Supporters’ Association has reported.
The damning findings will be used as part of the Premier League’s review of the technology, in the hope of improving its use from next season. The use of VAR has been widely criticised since it was implemented in the Premier League at the start of the 2019/20 season, Sheffield United’s first in the top flight in 12 years.
They suffered at its hand – David McGoldrick being robbed of a first Premier League goal away at Spurs when John Lundstram’s toe was adjudged to have been offside, after a long, long check – but also benefitted, with a late equaliser for West Ham at Bramall Lane chalked off after Declan Rice handled the ball in the build-up.
It’s not something they’ll have to contend with next season, after their relegation to the Championship, but VAR looks like it’s here to stay – and so United will encounter it soon enough if they are successful in winning promotion back to the top flight.
Over 33,000 football supporters were consulted by the FSA, who are describing their survey as the largest of its kind.
A whopping 95 per cent of match-going fans said VAR made the experience of watching a game less enjoyable, with 44 per cent saying they would be less likely to attend a game in future because of the technology.
“There is a clear feeling among fans that VAR has ruined the spontaneity of goal celebrations, and taken away a big part of our most enjoyable matchday moments,” said the FSA’s vice-chair Tom Greatrex.
“We hope that the Premier League and referees’ body PGMOL will hear the fans’ voice and take urgent steps to improve a system that isn’t delivering clear and understandable decisions in stadiums.”
Just 26 per cent of those polled supported the use of VAR but fans aren’t against the use of technology completely, with 97 per cent of them in favour of goal-line technology.
Steve Moulds, an FSA national council member and member of their VAR working group, said: “One of the main concerns raised by supporters is that VAR decisions are taking too long, and even then they aren’t always clearly communicated to those fans in the stadium when they are made.
“Despite being part of our game for several years, there is still great confusion over exactly how VAR operates, and that is having a detrimental impact on the enjoyment of match-going fans, as well as those watching on TV.
“We’d like to see much better communication and explanation from officials on VAR decisions, which will go some way to improving supporter confidence in the system.”
Just over half of the respondents of the survey – 55 per cent – had experienced VAR in a stadium and 77 per cent felt that referees needed to take the time to explain VAR decisions more clearly to those present in grounds.
Over three quarters, 78 per cent, agreed that other sports are better suited to the use of video technology than football and more than nine in 10 respondents to the survey believe that VAR decisions are not resolved in a reasonable amount of time.