'Give us another minute as someone just said they thought one of their strikers committed a foul when they played Fulham last month'

Who Should Vote To Veto VAR?

Darren Young


Darren is a director at The Fan  Experience Company.

He has a background in working on customer service excellence projects in the UK and Europe, and an MBA that included studying in the United States. 

A UEFA Mentor and Fan Experience Company consultant, Darren works with clubs across Europe to improve the match-day experience and increase attendance through engagement with fans.

As one of the biggest critics of VAR for some time now, this might sound a tad hypocritical but are we in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we get rid of it now?

Wolves are, not surprisingly as they’ve been at the arse-end of a lot of the baffling decisions, calling for it to be scrapped and Premier League clubs will now vote on the matter.

The general feeling – based on a social media sense check (any oxymoron if ever there was one) – seems to be that scrapping it is what the fans generally want, but that the ‘bigger’ clubs will vote to keep it. Again, no surprise there as those clubs tend to get the benefit of the more contentious decisions.

But does it all need to be quite so black and white? And do fans really get any say in all this?

They should. We also know they probably won’t, but some Premier League clubs made big decisions (cough, European Super League, cough) without consulting them before and look how that worked out.

But have Wolves made it too binary a choice anyway? What if we  – and yes, I know this is hard in the world we now live in – didn’t have to just pick a side. What if we could, you know, fix what isn’t working? Maybe fans would prefer to have VAR; but a VAR that actually works.

It goes against much of what I’ve screamed at the TV in recent months but think about it; we don’t scrap motorways just because someone drives badly on them: we try to make them safer. Better. So we could at least try that first.

Most rationale fans will tell you it’s not VAR that is the problem anyway, but the people who operate it. I’d go a stage further as it’s probably those that implement it that are really at fault, as I’d bet that the referees themselves would argue they are just following orders.

After all, it was the Premier League (or PGMOL) who made the decision to be an outlier and not follow the standard guidance for implementing the technology. It’s not used judiciously, as it is in UEFA’s European competitions, or in most of the leagues around the world. In England, there is far more unnecessary nit-picking, but this is a self-inflicted wound.

Rolling back the clock to BVAR isn’t necessarily the solution, although Swedish clubs (all with 51% minimum fan ownership) have voted to do just that and move forward without it. In the Premier League, with no fan ownership and a lot of vested interest, putting the genie back in the bottle won’t be anywhere near as easy.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing.

If we learn from mistakes – admittedly not a forte of English football – then surely a compromise, a system that actually works properly, is possible to reach.

Here are five fan-friendly ways I’d go about it:


1.Reduce the number of interventions. It seems clear and obvious but still the VAR currently gets itself embroiled in stuff that’s far from clear and obvious. The referee – as they do everywhere else in Europe – should make the decision and no one else needs to be involved unless there is a clear mistake. In other sports (and especially rugby which is probably the closest to football in its flow) the ref is in charge, and he calls upon the technology and VAR if he feels he needs to check something. Likewise, the VAR only contacts him if he’s missed something significant (he only has one pair of eyes after all). In all cases, they are not looking for any excuse to rule out a try, or send a player off, which seems to be the case a lot of the time in the Premier League.


2. Leave goals alone. The biggest gripe that fans have is that the technology sucks the life – and fun – out of the game mainly by making goals (aka the main point of the game) harder to celebrate. So why do VAR officials need to ‘take a look’ at every goal (sometimes it feels like they want to go back to previous games, or even seasons, to uncover an excuse to chalk one off) unless there is anything the on-field referee feels might be worth checking? This would stop the practice of going back to look at earlier passages, removing delays and letting more goals stand. A win-win for fans.


3. Make offside (and handball while we’re at it) clearer. This is too much of a grey area as it stands. The lines being drawn and the frames per second argument are all helping to generate doubt. Why not just have assistant refs flag if it’s clearly offside, and don’t flag if it’s close? As the Bayern Munich v Real Madrid game showed, we are still managing to bugger this one up outside of the Premier League too, so let assistants do their job (they are even getting help from automated offside technology next season) and when there is a close call, let the technology do its job. And top priority for fans? Cut out the assistant flagging ages after they see a clear offside.


4. Cut any check-time to a maximum of one minute. The increase in injuries this season may be down, in part, to a lot of standing around for players waiting for Stockley Park to get its act together, but fans are getting a raw deal too. Those in the stadium are either clueless about what is going on, or seeing what the TV audience can see if they look on their phones. The lengthy delays are frustrating and are opening the game to ridicule. Surely the clubs, refs and broadcasters don’t want to hear a chorus of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ – and that’s one of the kinder ones – being sung to a global audience? If a decision isn’t clear and obvious in 60 seconds, then it’s not clear and obvious and the on-field decision should stand.


5. Make the game less about VAR. I know it sounds harsh, but it does actually feel like the individuals involved are trying to make it about them on occasion, and the media and commentators keep continually feeding the beast too. Being a VAR can’t be easy, but surely that’s all the more reason NOT to draw attention to themselves all the time? This constant – although Howard Web has tried to curtail it – attempt to intervene and be a part of the story needs to stop. A VAR shouldn’t be seen or heard until there is a glaring mistake. And we’re talking Hand of God oversights or Thierry Henry basketball level-offences, not because a winger  gave a defender a funny look three minutes earlier.  


Make those changes and suddenly everyone, including – and possibly more than anyone – fans, can begin to enjoy the games, and goals, again.

As a fan, that way forward gets my vote anyway.

And it seems pretty clear and obvious too.  

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