Wolves, VAR and the inevitability of human error sparking human rage

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Wolves;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Wolves</a> fans trying to make a point.</span><span>Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images</span>
Wolves fans trying to make a point.Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images


When it comes to refereeing football matches, there has always been a standard of perfection that cannot be improved upon because the people in charge of making the decisions are … well, people. Even the very best of those have always been prone to making potentially game-changing errors because they are humans, who sometimes get things wrong, prompting other humans to get very angry, call them names and accuse of them of corruption. It was with this in mind that the Premier League hit upon the wheeze of introducing video assistant referees, holing these curtain-twitching busybodies up in a Stockley Park bunker, from where they could scrutinise the action from whatever top-flight match they’d been tasked with monitoring, desperate to pick up on any errors made by the actual match referees, however insignificant or innocuous.

And it has worked, up to a point. Except guess what? Video assistant referees are also human and therefore make mistakes too. As people who were opposed to VAR before its introduction forecast at the time, a system designed to help eliminate human error from match-officiating cannot and never will work as long as it is operated by humans. What it has succeeded in, however, is slowing down games so they can be interminably re-refereed from all angles, in the process ruining the chaotic spontaneity of the sport we all love. And for what? To prompt even more rage and ludicrous cries of conspiracy. The upshot? A system designed to end on-field controversy in football has become its biggest, most contentious talking point. Well done, everybody. Well done.

For some time now, there have been calls from several quarters to put VAR back in its box, entomb it in concrete and go back to the days when players were only offside if the assistant referee’s flag went up. Those days were far from perfect and mistakes were made, just as they are now that the system to correct those errors has been put in place. The victims of a number of officiating gaffes this season, Wolves have finally had enough and tabled a motion to get VAR in the bin from the start of next season and if 13 other top-flight sides join them in voting in favour of their motion at next month’s Premier League AGM, the Stockley Park lights will go out. Fans and players will once again get to celebrate goals with impunity, safe in the knowledge that their jubilation will not be curtailed by somebody with a set square and protractor who, after careful study of several super slow-motion replays, has found an otherwise indiscernible offside kneecap. Sadly, it is unlikely to happen and football is almost certainly stuck with this blight because Premier League suits have moved quickly to remind everyone how great VAR will be at some vague and unspecified point in the future.

“Clubs are entitled to put forward proposals at shareholders’ meetings and we acknowledge the concerns and issues around the use of VAR,” honked a statement. “However, the league fully supports the use of VAR and remains committed, alongside PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Limited], to make continued improvements to the system for the benefit of the game and fans.” Of course, those who remain in favour of VAR have every right to point out that for all its very obvious and entirely predictable flaws, its introduction has helped to increase the number of correct decisions made in games from 82%, before its introduction, to 96% this season. They might also point out that even if it is voted out of Premier League existence, the chances of its absence putting a stop to the moaning of Gary O’Neil, Mikel Arteta, Nottingham Forest and other wronged clubs when poor decisions occasionally and inevitably go against them are precisely zero.


Join Rob Smyth at 8pm BST for hot Championship playoff second-leg action, with minute-by-minute updates from Leeds 2-2 Norwich (aet; 5-6 on penalties).


“I think we’ve seen the rebirth not only of a club but of a town, a community and two missed generations of supporters … This is a unique club. The embeddedness in our community is our heart and soul” – Ipswich chief suit Mark Ashton settles in for a chat with Nick Ames about the Tractor Boys’ promotion to the Premier League and what happens now.


Thanks to our friends at the Guardian Print Shop, we are giving away four David Squires cartoons over the next four weeks. To enter, just write us a letter for publication below. We will choose the best of our letter o’ the day winners at the end of each of the next four weeks and that worthy winner will be given a voucher for one of our top, top cartoonist’s prints. And if you’re not successful, you can scan the full archive of David’s cartoons here and then buy your own. Terms and conditions for the competition can be viewed here.


While it’s a shame, and we can debate (endlessly maybe) how jeopardy-free this Premier League race is, let’s not get disappointed, broaden our horizons and get invested in the exciting race in Scotland … ah. Spain? Um. Italy? Hmm. Germany? When, that long ago? France? No, I never care about that anyway either. Let’s instead don ironic sunglasses, a needless hat and bootcut trousers, reach for a can of overpriced Craft Tin and pick a side in the Austrian Bundesliga! As long as it’s not Salzburg, obviously” – Jon Millard.

I was intrigued to read Rick Gaehl’s proposal for handicapping teams to promote more competitiveness in the Premier League (yesterday’s Football Daily letters). I’d suggest that Rick did not go far enough. I’d propose that after the points deductions for the first three teams, the fourth team would have no deduction while the fifth team would have three points added to its total, the sixth team would have six points added and so on down the table in increments of three points per place. I think that this system would be the only way Tottenham would get within satellite range of winning the title” – Tony Timms.

I am generally not in favour of such things because they inevitably become overly complicated and lead to even greater levels of whining about ‘fairness’. However, I am in favour of a handicapping system for Noble Francis when there’s a prize available for letter o’ the day winners. How else can the rest of us compete against him?” – Bryan Duncan.

I can’t say I follow Italian football any more, not since the nostalgia-ridden days of Football Italia on Sunday afternoons in the 90s when we used to convince ourselves that watching a dull and defensive Milan bore everyone to yet another Serie A title (36 goals scored in 34 games, 1993-94) was worth it as there was nothing else on. However, I couldn’t help notice that Big Website says Juventus won the Coppa Italia to end their ‘trophy drought’. Having not won anything since (flicks through notes) 2021? And they were playing a team that has only won one trophy in its entire 116-year history and that was in 1963. Now that’s a proper drought” – Noble Francis.

Re: 2-0 home defeats to deny your bitter rivals (yesterday’s Football Daily). I am surprised more Arsenal fans are not still celebrating their reverse against Aston Villa last month. Without that result, Spurs could have made Big Cup” – Dan Ashley.

Send letters to Today’s letter o’ the day winner is … Dan Ashley, who now has the chance to win a David Squires cartoon from our print shop at the end of the week. Terms and conditions for all this can be viewed here.