When you sat back and thought about the 2019/20 Premier League season during your last summer holidays, you would’ve been at a loss to pinpoint the biggest talking point of the season. All things considered, that is quite remarkable given that Liverpool will most likely smash the 100 point mark, and be crowned champions after putting together the most impressive Premier League campaign ever witnessed.
In fact, Jurgen Klopp’s men should top the table by the biggest winning margin by any
side ever in the history of the Premier League. But, alas, that still won’t be at the
forefront of your mind as you sit on the Costa Smeralda.
Instead, as you sip on something cool whilst the azure waters of the Mediterranean lap
at your feet, you’ll be thinking about VAR and what a catastrophe it has been in its
debut season in the Premier League. Almost no one is happy with VAR at this stage,
and the calls for it to go are growing louder and louder, and are now almost coming
from every corner. Will the Premier League listen and finally suspend VAR?
What is the extent of VAR’s interference this season?
The latest count on VAR, and the goals or incidents that it has affected, comes in at 75
after the controversy in the game between Spurs and Manchester City, where the North
London club claimed victory after benefiting from the Video Assistant Referee. All in
all this season, 38 goals have been disallowed and 19 decisions made that led to goals.
Furthermore, 12 penalties have been awarded and four overturned, with 25 goals
ruled out for offside. Carrying on from there, VAR has seen fit to award five red cards
whilst overturning three.
Needless to say, after having a look at those figures, VAR has stolen the limelight throughout this season. Some decisions are less controversial than others, but some are quite ridiculous, namely Declan Rice’s handball in the build-up to Robert Snodgrass’ goal at Sheffield United, that denied the Hammers a share of the spoils late on at ramall Lane.
There is every chance, should West Ham get relegated, that they look back on that decision as one of the key moments behind their Premier League demise. This controversial situation looks a distinct possibility given that, as of early stages in February, Betway have priced Moyes’ men at 5/4 to go down.
Indeed, VAR is beginning to act as the hand of fate, with its decisions beginning to add
up, which will inevitably have a longer-lasting impact. But it’s not just the basement
clubs that are struggling.
Many have asked if Manchester City are indeed feeling the brunt of VAR. It should be
said that there is a tendency for supporters to feel like there is a conspiracy against
their clubs at the best of times but, when VAR intervenes and disallows goals, fans feel
like they officially have proof. In the cold light of day, and once the emotion dies down,
it’s clear to see that simply isn’t the case.
Does common sense actually go out the window?
The main problem with VAR is that supporters feel like it nit-picks too much, hence
why we all talk about the armpit offside now, after VAR ruled out a Firmino goal on the
barest of margins. So, in essence, what the fans are saying is that we want VAR but
don’t necessarily want it to scrutinize a possible situation too closely. It’s hard not to
shake your head after weighing up that logic.
Sure, VAR is frustrating, but to accuse it of being too accurate, well, anyone can see
how flawed an argument that is, given that its sole purpose is to use all means possible
to make the right decision. Could it be done slightly faster? Absolutely, but these things do take time. In any case, what you’ll probably find if the Premier League does decide to persevere with VAR, is that we were dealing with a raw version of it that had many teething issues.
Will the Premier League stick with VAR?
Everything says that they will so rather than put it on the scrapheap. They are
rumoured to be inviting the 20 Premier League clubs to sit down and debate what the
league is calling ‘radical changes.’ Having said that, the Premier League doesn’t strike
you as an organization that will sit idly by whilst VAR ruins the product that they have
built up over the past 27 years.
It’s unlikely that lead sponsors like the gaming giants EA Sports will stand by and not
make much a noise of this cacophony of disapproval gets any louder. The same can be
said for the soft drink titans Coca-Cola and their affiliation with the Premier League.
These big boys of industry, not to mention the league’s main sponsors, are not going to
let VAR turn people away from the beautiful game.
If the team at Stockley Park don’t streamline VAR in its current form, then you’d have
to say that it is in real danger of getting the boot after the playing of the 2020/21