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Clear And Obvious

Blind Hammer looks at how VAR is to be implemented next season.

I was sitting in my local cafe yesterday anticipating the new season with a fellow hammer and season ticket holder Eddie Mann.

Eddie raised a concern that VAR may adversely affect the excitement and elation which we all enjoy. Eddie was worried that rather than launching into a full-throated roar, the crowd may instead be on uncertain tenterhooks, unsure as to whether a goal is to be ruled out by VAR.

I think Eddie is right to be concerned.

VAR is to be used in 4 situations. It reviews all goals scored, the awarding of penalties, straight red cards, and cases of mistaken identity.

The particular concern lays with the goal and penalty reviews and how long they will take.

Already we are used to a certain hesitation with some goals as they may require a quick check with the assistant linesman as to whether Offside applies. Goals here though are rapidly affirmed allowing appropriate celebration or disappointment. The record of VAR so far is not so good.

Mike Riley is responsible for fronting up the implementation of VAR for the Premier League. He explained that in 68 trial matches there was an average of 8 VAR reviews a game, and each review took on average 29 seconds. Riley defended this delay by saying in 95% of cases the review was finished before the match restarted.

This is a disingenuous defence. Clearly, a referee will not allow a match to be restarted until a VAR review of a goal is complete. Eddie’s concern that we will be waiting up to 30 seconds before we can truly celebrate a goal seems entirely valid.

Riley admitted that in one game, involving Southampton and Derby, it took 118 seconds to review an offside decision. He defended this as acceptable to achieve the correct decision.

Riley admitted he would prefer a maximum of 90 seconds for an offside review. This still seems far too long for me.

The concept of VAR was always to correct “clear and obvious errors”. If a VAR official cannot correct a clear and obvious offside error within 60 seconds the benefit of the doubt should go to the attacking side and responsibility remain with the match officials.

Similarly, with goal and penalty decisions, there needs to be much more time pressure on VAR officials. 30 seconds is far too long to hang around wondering if a goal has been scored. An experienced referee on a 20-second video review should be able to spot a clear and obvious error. If they cannot it surely cannot be clear and obvious.

Football has always generated debate because of contentious decisions. I think it is a big mistake to introduce forensic analysis to the nth degree in matches to try and get perfection in decision making.
We know that many so-called experts will disagree even after hours of reviewing match action and decisions.

I support VAR but not to achieve perfection. It is there for redressing clear and obvious errors. VAR officials need their game heads on and react with rapidity and not at leisure. They should match the speed and drama of the high octane, high-speed environment in which both players and match officials are required to perform.

David Griffith aka Blind Hammer

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About David Griffith

My Father, born in 1891 was brought up in the shadows of the Thames Ironworks Memorial Ground. I remember as a child jumping over the settee when Alan Sealy scored in our 1965 European Cup Winners triumph. My first game was against Leicester in 1968, when Martin Peters scored what was adjudged by ITV’s Big Match as the Goal of the Season. I became a season ticket holder in 1970. I was registered blind in 1986 and thought my West Ham supporting days were over. However in 2010 I learnt about the fantastic support West Ham offer to Blind and other Disabled Supporters. I now use the Insightful Irons in-stadium commentary service and West Ham provide space for my Guide Dog Nyle. I sit on the West Ham Disabled Supporters Board and the LLDC Built Environment Access Panel. David Griffith aka Blind Hammer

6 comments on “Clear And Obvious

  1. 100% agree. I’ve been saying the same thing for a long time. If the definition is ‘clear and obvious’, then if you can’t definitively tell after 2 slow motion replays, the original decision should stand and the game should resume. I’ve seen VAR decisions where the ref is looking at the replay 10-12 times (Llorente’s Champions League goal comes to mind). Even after all those replays, there was still some doubt. It seems so simple, watch in slow motion twice from 2 different angles and make a decision.

    I also don’t agree that the on field referee should make the decision. What a waste of time, it doesn’t matter where the decision comes from as long as it’s correct. The people watching the VAR replays will be professional referees so let them make the call and the on field ref implements it. No time wasted.

    I think we’ll be wishing by the end of the season that they’d never implemented it. I think it’ll spoil some of the magic of football.

  2. How about implementing a framework where mansgers are allowed to appeal a decision ( then turning to VAR), with some sort of mechanism like 1 sub cost if appeal overruled or something? Just a thought…

  3. Respect your opinion BH but imho the problem isn’t VAR but the quality of those reviewing it. I can’t wait for it as the league should be fairer for it and we will benefit more than 19 other teams so bring it on COYI !!!!

    • I still think the big clubs will be given any decision that isn’t clear cut. They’ll still be favoured, it’ll just take longer.

  4. I say, cheer, roar, scream as you usually would, with 100% conviction, because it always feels great to do so. If the decision is reversed….meh. That being said it’s a mistake. Like Lok says if the captain/manager is limited to 2 appeals per match and maintains 2 if he excercises one and is proved correct, then that might work. The players will generally know whether there has been a clear cut miscarriage of justice and won’t want to waste an appeal if it’s anything but. COYI

  5. Why not see how it pans out this season. If there are problems it can be tweaked next year. I can only see benefits in that decisions will be fairer. Although it is still the Refs’ opinion, he will be better informed. And everybody else will be seeing the same thing so the decision will be under scrutiny. I think it will make it much fairer for the clubs outside top six because any sub conscious bias will pale under the evidence.

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