Why it’s time to ditch VAR

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VAR sucks.

It’s as simple as that, really. Matches no longer fixate on the individual performances or class tactics from a coach.

The conversation so often trends to what the referee did or didn’t do. Players can score hat tricks that are overlooked. It’s all about the VAR (Video Assistant Referee).

Of course, referee controversies and them being the centre of attention during the post-match analysis is nothing new. But, VAR has only made it worse. VAR was brought in to improve the standard of refereeing in this league, something which the fans were (and are) crying out for.

But VAR has not done that.

For example, in Wellington Phoenix’s recent 3-1 win over the Wanderers, a free kick for the Wanderers was awarded on the edge of the area. VAR checked, and it all appeared to be ok. Then, a solid thirty seconds after VAR gave it the all clear, referee Alex King ran over to the side screen to check VAR. He then changed the free kick to a penalty, which the Wanderers would miss.

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All in all, that was three minutes of stop-start play. The flow was ruined, and it was incredibly frustrating to watch.

And, VAR doesn’t make the right decisions. It only gives referees an avenue to check their bad, or at least controversial, ones, or in some cases make the decisions worse.

For example, we’re still wondering why Ryan Lowry was sent off in the Phoenix’s 1-1 draw with Perth.  Another ludicrous decision: Sydney were denied a penalty after the most blatant of handballs from Nix wing back Louis Fenton during the Sky Blues’s 1-0 win there, despite a VAR check.

And VAR isn’t even good for referees. Say for a moment a controversial thing happens. Maybe a bad tackle in the box. If you’re the ref, do you let play go on, and wait for VAR to adjudicate and call it back if need be?

If you have to pull it back, and especially if you have to go to the side line screen, you’ll be criticised for stopping the flow of the game. If you do award a penalty immediately, then you’ll be criticised for not checking or ignoring VAR. Either way, you’ll be written about in the papers for days and will face a truckload of criticism.

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In essence, you are placing a man in a position where you have thousands of fans yelling verbal abuse, 22 highly paid sports people making demands, and the cameras of the entire world watching – and you’re forcing him to make a decision where he’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.

In the end, VAR is nothing but a band-aid, and a pretty terrible one at that. The real problem is that referees aren’t well trained enough for this league. VAR is not the solution. The solution is more investment in refs and better referee training. Until that happens and we have competent refs, VAR has absolutely no place in our league.

Featured image: Ngau Kai Yan

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Dan Moskovitz
Dan Moskovitz
The Football Sack's resident teen kiwi football nut. Loves everything football except defeats.

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