The Life and Crimes of VAR
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 14 January 2020 at 8:00pm
Written by: Graham Keeffe
Another week, another example of how VAR and the controversial Law 12 handball rule in their current states are sucking the enjoyment out of football. Declan Rice described how his team were left “fuming” in the dressing room at full time on Friday night as the Hammers had a last minute equaliser ruled out for a handball in the build-up. A handball which resulted from Sheffield’s John Egan heading the ball into Rice’s arm. In an honest post-match interview Rice stated that “It’s a real kick in the teeth. I think it’s the thoughts of every Premier League player, I don’t think anyone wants VAR.” It’s hard to disagree with Rice’s sentiments, particularly given how important a point on the road would have been to West Ham in their efforts to distance themselves from the bottom three.
West Ham are now one of a number of clubs who have fallen victim to VAR controversy in recent times. Just before the New Year, Norwich City looked set to add Spurs to their list of “big-team” scalps as Teemu Pukki brilliant chested down and controlled a long ball to fire his team 2-0 ahead. By a mere matter of pixels, the goal was ruled out for offside and Norwich would go on to draw the game. Less than 24 hours later, Wolves’ Pedro Neto looked to have scored a brilliant equaliser against Liverpool only to be adjudged offside by what appeared to be a toenail. They then went on to lose 1-0. Chants of “It’s not football anymore” have emanated from disgruntled home and away sections this season as VAR continues to wreak havoc. We are now at a point where players are immediately turning to the referee as opposed to the fans when a goal has gone in for fear of it being ruled out. Supporters and players alike are left on tenterhooks as officials in Stockley Park begin to draw imaginary lines from toe to armpit to determine the legitimacy of a goal.
In its current state, VAR is simply not feasible for long-term use. One of the greatest things about football is the intrinsic connection shared between fans and players after a goal has gone in. It’s a moment of sheer, unadulterated emotion. With the implementation of VAR, this moment is now subject to a process almost as rigorous as airport customs. The build-up to the goal has to be swept through a metal detector, the goal scorer patted down and any players in the surrounding area swabbed just to be extra careful. It’s simply madness. As for the Law 12 handball rule, anyone who believes themselves to be a true fan of football and who saw the Rice handball will be able to tell you why it so desperately needs reform. If players are expected to run with their hands by their sides going forward, then perhaps the premier league should consider the implementation of handcuffs.
As the dust begins to settle around the Sheffield defeat, West Ham must now turn their attention to another massive game at the London Stadium on Saturday, as Everton come to visit. With a difficult test in store, it can only be hoped that VAR doesn’t rear its ugly in this fixture. COYI.