SO NEAR, YET SO VAR
There were 116 teams winning, losing and drawing across the weekend in the Premier League, EFL, WSL and Women’s Championship, but as is so often the case these days, the only team anyone was talking about come Monday morning was, of course, the PGMOL, which released yet another mea culpa on Saturday after wrongly disallowing Luis Díaz’s goal for Liverpool in their defeat at Tottenham. The Reds’ not-exactly-helpful statement on Sunday night – making noises about “sporting integrity” and “full transparency”, and promising to “explore the range of options available, given the clear need for escalation and resolution” – only fanned the flames of online ire. So allow Football Daily to solve everything with eight suggestions for improving VAR.
1) Release the audio: Making conversations between on-pitch and VAR officials public would at least add a layer of transparency and go some way to warding off the increasing hoards of tinfoil-hat-wearing referees-all-hate-my-club conspiracy theorists. No more: “What were they thinking?!” because we’d know, whether we liked it or not. Or we could just bin it all off completely.
2) Allow officials to call back play once restarted: This seems pretty obvious. Had the officials at Spurs, who realised their mistake within seconds, felt able to pull play back from something as sacrosanct as – checks notes – a Tottenham free-kick, then your tea-timely email wouldn’t be banging on about all this. Or we could just bin it all off completely.
3) Semi-automated offside technology: This has worked just fine elsewhere and though it would not have made a difference in north London, it would speed things up for the oft-forgotten fans actually paying to be in the ground: Ansu Fati’s goal for Brighton at Villa Park on Saturday took well over two minutes of VAR checking for offside. Or we could, you know, just bin it all off completely.
4) No stills of incidents on pitchside monitor: The image of Curtis Jones’s tackle on Yves Bissouma made the challenge look awful. But then static images at the point of contact always make incidents look worse. When referees are already looking at footage distorted by slow-motion, still images are unhelpful at best and misleading at worst. Just show the footage. Or maybe just bin it all off completely.
5) Get former players involved: A few ex-pros down at Stockley Park might help with incidents such as the Jones tackle, where a referee sees a bone-crunching studs-up red and a former player might see an unfortunate attempt-to-nick-the-ball-away yellow. How about some sort of VAR-based national service for players? Play 100 Premier League games? That’s 10 turns in the VAR booth once you retire. Or alternatively we could just bin it all off completely.
6) Managerial challenge system: Give managers two opportunities each half to get a VAR look at a decision. Goal against you stood when it shouldn’t? That’s on you. Time to upgrade your dugout refereeing decision analysis team. Or perhaps we could just bin it all off completely.
7) Stop penalising players for trying to play on: Brentford’s Yoane Wissa was a victim of this on Sunday when hoofed into the east Midlands air by Forest goalkeeper Matt Turner. Players shouldn’t need to throw themselves to the turf and roll around in mock-agony for VAR to award a decision. So maybe we should just bin it all off completely.
8) Go Swedish: Over the years Sweden has given the world a stack of great innovations – seatbelts, zips, Bluetooth, pacemakers, milk cartons and the adjustable spanner to name but a few. These days the Allsvenskan is innovating by not innovating – it’s the last major European men’s top-flight division to hold out against video assistant referees. So when it comes to VAR perhaps we can take a leaf from the book of a country smart enough to give the world both dynamite and safety matches. AKA binning it off completely.
FRANCIS LEE (1944-2023)
The former England and Manchester City striker Francis Lee has died aged 79. Lee, who also had a spell as City’s chairman in the 1990s, played for them between 1967 and 1974, winning 27 England caps and scoring 10 times. “A club legend in every sense, Francis made 330 appearances for City, scoring 148 goals,” read a club statement. “He won one First Division title, one FA Cup, one League Cup, a European Cup Winners’ Cup and two Charity Shields during a glittering eight-year spell as a player – a legacy that ensures his position among Manchester City’s all-time greats is secure.”
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“In my 26 years the worst [defeat] is 6-0, I think: Russia, Ukraine, England, Belgium. Those aren’t third division teams. Take our level and England’s level and the score’s 80-0, maybe more. We know often it’s damage limitation; there have been matches when we’re frantically bailing out water like we’re on the Titanic. You’re Andorra but you try to win, harbour that hope. All I’ve got is a little water pistol but maybe if I get them in the eye, rob the ball and then … the worst team in the world will get a chance, always” – Ildefons Lima gets his highly entertaining chat on with Sid Lowe about how he loved sticking it to The Man during his record-breaking Andorra career.
FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS
Before the Spurs-Liverpool match, Ange Postecoglou spoke about his nostalgic fondness for Fonzie in Happy Days but, as it turned out, it was VAR that jumped the shark” – Peter Oh.
The attendance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the Liverpool game was quoted officially as 62,001. I can only assume the extra one was the VAR team member partly watching from a restricted-view seat in the upper tiers” – Nigel Sanders.
Refs are selected for their ability to make quick decisions with what may be partial information, while performing in an athletic event that requires considerable endurance. VAR, on the other hand, is a desk job requiring patience and attention to detail. Maybe the wrong people are being used for VAR” – Jim.
While I sympathise with the fans of Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Firewall FC and Southend (Friday’s Football Daily), the fundamental problem isn’t the perceived lack of money coming down from the Premier League, it is club owners who should never have passed the ‘fit and proper’ test. Premier League money should certainly not subsidise the antics of David Hilton in Lincolnshire, or Ron Martin’s vanity project in Essex” – Peter Swann.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Peter Swann.
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