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VAR + David Elleray = disaster


When people first started talking about using technology to help referees, I heard and read many times that football was against that because it would put a stop to all the controversy. It was a view generally espoused by those not connected to the game, bringing with it the implicit accusation that football people can’t get enough of divisive talking points. And it has not aged well: VAR not only hasn’t done away with the controversy, it has heightened it. When a ref got something wrong before, the get-out always was that they must not have seen it. But now when one side feels aggrieved by the officiating, the fall-out is worse. The problem is that VAR should be there just to intervene when there are huge, clear-cut howlers, and that isn’t the case. It's meddling in little things, and it's inconsistent.

There's no knowing when and why VAR will intervene

What we’re left with is Clément Lenglet having a good old tug at Sergio Ramos’ shirt and conceding a penalty, while many observers not unjustifiably point out that, week in, week out, there is all manner of unpunished pushing, shoving and shirt-pulling on corners and free-kicks. The result is general perplexity over exactly when and why VAR sees fit to step in. Recently, the video assistant did diddly-squat despite Cádiz’s Alberto Perea being chopped down in the penalty area, but on Sunday chalked an Álvaro Negredo goal off because a player who didn’t even touch the ball was a hair’s breadth offside. A spot-kick was also given against Getafe’s Djené Dakonam for a challenge not unlike Casemiro’s on Lionel Messi a day earlier.

Each week, VAR throws up the six key questions of journalism: who, what, how, when, where and why? And you only get an answer to the first. Who? The video ref. The rest is just nebulous, however much Spanish referees’ chief Carlos Velasco Carballo comes out every so often with his barrage of percentages. As I say, the issue is that VAR was conceived with major incidents in mind, but it appears the definition of major incident is a broad one. And, to top it off, it has been implemented with David Elleray at the helm of IFAB. A sorcerer's apprentice who’s obsessed with reinventing the wheel and suffers from mental diarrhoea, he issues revisions and reinterpretations every year that only confuse the officials and bewilder the fans.