VAR has been the main focus point in the Premier League this season and often made controversial choices. The newest one denied West Ham what looked like a last minute equaliser against Sheffield United. But VAR stepped in and denied the goal based on the fact that there had been a handball in the goal’s build up.
The new technology was right, there had been a handball. It was slight and it certainly wasn’t intentional, not in a Thierry Henry way when the French legend deliberately used his hand to control the ball in a World Cup play off with Ireland over a decade ago. This was different, there was no intention, no malice just the pace of the ball, the way it bobbled and the way the player in a natural position had received it. And yet a goal that looked pretty perfect did not exist and West Ham lost the game, incidentally David Moyes’ first loss as Hammers manager.
West Ham’s Declan Rice was the player at fault as he handled the ball and he had this to say to local sports channel Sky Sports after the controversial moment: “We are fuming all the lads are livid. This is a tough place to come, credit to them they ground it out. We created some chances and missed some chances. The goal at the end was a tough one to take because a point on the road would have been good for us.
Rice continued: “ I’ve just watched it back. He has knocked the ball into my hand. If you are running with your arms like that with the rules as they are now it is handball but it is not intentional. It is a kick in the teeth. I think it is the thoughts of every Premier League player, not just me, pretty much every one doesn’t want to have VAR in the game.There have been so many decisions this season that have been absolutely crazy. They were celebrating VAR like it was a goal and football should not be like that. I can’t get over it, he knocked it into my hand. It is not intentional handball. I was buzzing. I ran 20 metres up the pitch, slipped the ball in for Snodgrass.”
It is very understandable to feel Rice’s frustrations and it has happened countless times when VAR has stepped in whether it is a handball clearly not intentional or an offside. The offside’s this season have been almost comical where most of the time a goal has been chalked off because a players knee, nose or little finger has been officially offside. Surely this is not cheating or the attacking player having an advantage? They would in fact have to be incredibly ingenious to place a nose just in front of the defender all the while keeping tags on where the ball is and where the next pass will be coming from.
So is VAR to blame for the chaos? Well in truth the root of the problem are out of date and new laws. The hand ball situation is a farce, it ruined last years Champions League final for example. All VAR is essentially doing is going with the rules, but it is being too precise. That may sound odd but true football fans or at least the ones following for decades will understand there have always been errors, but those errors have led to goals and not a lack of. It seems ingrained in football fans DNA that the way of the game wasn’t to pause it and then take 3 minutes to decide if a goal is a goal. And like Rice said is it normal to cheer like a goal has been scored when a VAR decision has gone against the opposition?
It does feel that VAR should be taking some responsibility, after all that final decision is coming down to another referee, who is not seeing the issue at hand. If pressure is being applied to have these decisions within the new rules at a 100% return then the rules need to be amended. The bottom line is did that player seek to cheat to get an advantage?
The rules are the rules but they can still be overturned by VAR’s decision, a clear and obvious error and all that. For now that point lost could well come back to haunt West Ham who could be in a relegation battle within a few weeks.
For now this case needs to be filed under c for common sense, let’s hope the powers that be use it fully.
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