There are many things that should be dominating discussion after Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners.

Adam Taggart’s wasteful finishing is one. Kalifa Cisse’s and Ben Kennedy’s surprisingly decent defensive shifts is another. How about the excellent link up play of Alex Lopez, Eric Bautheac and Stefan Mauk or even Tommy Oar’s first game back in Brisbane for an opposing team.

Instead we have another match overshadowed with talk of only one thing… VAR.

John Aloisi summed it up post-match: “It’s clear that they’re still not getting it right. When it takes so long to make a decision then you know there’s something wrong.”

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None of what’s being said hasn’t been said before. The inherent problems of VAR in the A-League are something fans, coaches, media and players have been discussing non-stop since it was first implemented.

That doesn’t mean what’s being said here is irrelevant. It means that nothing’s changed.

The issues most people have with VAR boil down to two things:

  1. Confusion about when it should be used, and:
  2. Referees making perceived incorrect decisions even when it has been used

The penalty awarded to Bruno Fornaroli in round one’s Melbourne derby is one of the most egregious examples of the latter.

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How anyone – let alone a trained match official – aided by the 20/20 hindsight of slow-motion replay could consider that a penalty boggles the minds of all but the most rose-tinted Melbourne City fans.

And it happened on Sunday too, though Aloisi’s claim that Adam Taggart’s 60th minute goal was incorrectly called offside by VAR is up for debate.

A-League rules clearly state VAR can be used for 4 things only:

  1. Goal/ no goal decisions
  2. Penalty/ no penalty decision
  3. Direct red cards
  4. Mistaken identity

Taggart was awarded a penalty. It’s a penalty/ no penalty decision. VAR reviews it. That’s fair enough.

By declaring Taggart offside as a means of disallowing the penalty, however, it feels as though VAR has made a decision it’s explicitly not allowed to make- offside rulings.

According to the International Football Association Board, VAR was technically used correctly in the Taggart penalty review, with the review allowed to “include the attacking move that led to the incident”. This “attacking move” would presumably include the missed offside call.

What this creates, however, is an inconsistent and unfair paradigm with botched offside calls. An example of this is the linesman’s incorrect call which cost Brisbane a one on one goal-scoring chance early in the first half. While there’s no practical way VAR could have fairly recompensed Brisbane for the lost chance, players and fans feel cheated when only a certain, specific segment of incorrect offside calls are corrected by VAR.

These inconsistent outcomes and lack of decision-making transparency serve only to fuel the confusion felt around the league. Looking at other codes, the implementation of live decision explanation in the NRL’s VAR-equivalent did wonders in altering the attitudes of fans. By clearly communicating the logic behind each decision, fans no longer felt like there was some closed-door conspiracy hell-bent on losing their team games.

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In fairness, this is something the FFA attempted to include when the A-League’s VAR system was first rolled out. Mysteriously, at least from the perspective of VAR’s critics, FIFA refused to allow it.

VAR is here to stay. There’s no fighting that. What needs to be fought for is its improvement. Taking 5 minutes to make a decision is unacceptable. Leaving fans in the dark about why a decision is made is unacceptable. Making a match an inherently worse viewing experience with something which is meant to improve it is beyond unacceptable.

To the FFA and FIFA: communicate with the fans. Let them know why a decision is made. Don’t let referees constantly stop play for minutes at a time to get the right call.

When matches become defined by VAR and not the quality of play, the game is not better for it.

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Loves Brisbane. Loves a pint. Loves a 'Kevin Muscat Bad Tackle' YouTube compilation.