Alan Biggs' Christmas football column - VAR Humbug! Technology is ruining football as we know it
The bloke who writes this has a rule never to tweet anything he wouldn’t happily see in a newspaper. He broke it this year.
He also has a rule never to swear on a public platform. He broke that in 2019 too.
Further, it’s been his policy over the years to avoid miserable and wretched topics at this time of goodwill and good cheer.
Hey-ho that one’s going as well.
Because nothing in football - nothing - has infuriated me more than VAR. Saying something, that, having leapfrogged diving and feigning of injuries into first place.
And also the reason why I called it a disgrace (with a certain word in front) after Sheffield United’s infamously disallowed “offside” goal at Tottenham in November.
VAR (in the format of its adoption here) goes to the heart of the football fan and for many, like me, it’s a dagger through it.
I couldn’t care less if it has improved accuracy of decision-making by a percentage or two (which is itself open to debate). Or whether it has levelled the playing field between clubs on fairness. Or whether it has helped referees in their unequal fight against a multitude of camera angles.
No, you could get all of that right and still have it wrong. Because this is the only yardstick that counts. Has VAR improved the Premier League or damaged it?
Meaning the spectacle, the excitement, the spontaneity, the appeal. Who can possibly argue that these have been enhanced? I’d claim the sport has been disfigured.
Surely this matters more in the grander scheme of things than a couple of slide-rule decisions being corrected? And can we even be sure of that?
Which is why it’s vital the system is made to fit the game rather than the other way around. After all, we humans are in control of it.
As humans, we still make most of the decisions on a football field. And that goes for VAR as well, those operating it. Because the majority are subjective.
So it makes no sense for match referees not to view a monitor when these are called into question. Let the referee decide - because his opinion is at least as good, if not better, than somebody viewing a video screen at Stockley Park. If there’s disagreement, so what! That happens on matters of opinion.
For many years, I have been close to some of the best match officials in the business - the likes of Keith Hackett, Mark Halsey, Glenn Turner, Roger Dilkes. There is much mutual respect between them and just as well; because I’ve known them argue all weekend about some close calls and, many times, have to agree to disagree in the end.
It follows that only one person should have the ultimate say on match situations. And interference minimised to obvious mistakes.
As for offside, don’t get me started. Football is no place for tape measures, especially when the technology can’t be trusted to the toenail accuracy it professes to have.
Don’t find reasons to disallow goals; find reasons not to disallow them. For instance, if you have to start drawing lines, forget it. Go with the goal - or no goal if an assistant has flagged.
We really have to get over this apparent search for perfection, which doesn’t exist. It is producing sterility in its place. Spectators unsure whether their cheers will turn to jeers; players reining in goal celebrations.
It’s all for TV, they say.
Well, audiences at home will lose that special affinity with the game at this rate. Not that they should be paramount in our thoughts.
The paying spectator continues to be treated with contempt, isolated from the reason for VAR checks.
Now don’t get me wrong. VAR is here to stay, the genie is out of the lamp, and it CAN be made to work to the game’s advantage.
But for that to happen the administrators have to work out and realise what made football special in the first place. Recognise that and all will be well - eventually.