Is VAR really what we thought it would be? And is it good for the sport?
VAR is a contentious topic that many people do not agree upon. Football, like every other sport, is an imperfect game. Since it is such this means that mistakes will be made that will change the outcomes of some games. The proof of this can be seen in the NFL, who implements a review system seemingly every play. Yet somehow non-calls such as Robey-Coleman’s clear pass interference against the Saints. That call arguably kept them out of the playoffs and was the most egregious non-call I have ever seen.
Since we play and watch these imperfect games does that not mean that we should also allow human mistakes in football? Personally, I believe the area lies somewhere in-between. During the 2010 World Cup Frank Lampard scored such an obvious goal against Germany that it seemed like the referees simply did not want to change their minds. After that, I was all for VAR in FIFA and every league that was willing to implement it.
Back then the thought was that “they should be able to see and accurately call balls that fully cross the line, but offside should never be on VAR.” That was the opinion of most sports pundits when in 2014 we saw VAR implemented the first time in the World Cup for Goals. Then as everything progressed it seemed to work the way it was supposed to. Now, we have it for offside as well.
Here is the problem with VAR offside calls: if a game is a human enterprise the refs must be considered part of the field, as they are in almost every sport. VAR is becoming now what the Video Review is in the NFL. It slows down the momentum of the game, and quite frankly there should be wiggle room on what is offside and what is not. I have been a Mercedes-Benz during a VAR decision, and it felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. The exact same thing happens in NCAA College Football. We are sitting at the game, have to already endure 30 minutes of TV timeouts, and then we sit sometimes 15 minutes to wait for a call.
Mistakes are part of sports. It’s what makes sports what people talk about around the water cooler at work. Although a call may not always be technically right, it was the call that was made. Yesterday, during the Liverpool Norwich City match up, a thumbnail being offside was apparently grounds to recall a goal that would have changed the whole complexion of the game. That is absurd. If the ref cannot make up his mind in 20 seconds by looking at that screen the game should keep being played.
Sports have always been about momentum, and during these breaks in games players and fans are just standing around, waiting for a decision that sometimes seems incorrect. There should be human error in the game. Extremely obvious offside should, of course, be called back, but the rule should not be interpreted so literally that a line on a computer is what decides something that the linesmen should have the call on. There have been steps forward, especially with the goal system, but it seems we have stepped too far forward with VAR concerning offside in professional football.