VAR F*** Sake!


Image: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Fulham’s latest defeat felt unfair, almost dirty. Being a Fulham fan in the Premier League you get used to losing, and most of the time it’s water off a ducks back. But felt different.

It’s very hard to see how VAR did anything but make a mockery of its own existence at the London Stadium. You only have to look at Gianluca Scamacca’s reaction to his goal to know he was waiting for it to be chalked off), then you have to ask yourself ‘What’s the ******* point?!’ And this comes after some extremely questionable decisions so far this season, incidents at Stamford Bridge and St James’ Park on the same afternoon come immediately to mind.

VAR was brought in to help referees and eradicate human error from decisions that, ultimately, could cost teams hundreds of millions of pounds. The problem is that human error can still occur even when there are multiple cameras pointed at the action and those in charge have the ability to slow down footage just to make sure they are seeing everything that needs to be seen.

Then the rules have been changed (and changed) based on feedback from teams and recommendations from those ‘in the know’ and whilst of course the referee may make calls on how he sees the action, the decisions made at Stockley Park should have no element of subjectiveness about that. They are merely there to confirm, reverse or suggest the man in the middle take another look, based on facts.

Referees and their assistants have been told to put their trust in the technology, and in fairness, the offside element of it seems to be sorted (even if the difference between a goal and no goal could be whether you have slightly erect nipples is a tad frustrating). But when it comes to judgements based on interpretation of footage and they’re still clearly making errors.

A semi-automated system is already in place in the Champions League and for the World Cup for offside calls, which begs the question of how long it’ll be before it’s fully-automated. If we’ve got robots handling that side of things, do we really need someone in a broom cupboard telling the referee what he probably already knows? Probably not but let’s face it, we’re too far down the rabbit hole to go back now.

After a season back in the Championship and seeing the quality of officiating down there, we’d have hoped that we’d just be happy to not look at the pitch like some confused puppy when the referee makes yet another questionable decision. Unfortunately, baffling decisions seem to be endemic and I’m not just saying this as a somewhat bitter Fulham fan.

But how do you solve an issue like this? It could be argued that one of the most promising referees in the English game currently is Australian import, Jarred Gillett, who was brought over and cut his teeth in the Championship before being swiftly promoted to the Premier League. Perhaps the answer is just that… find the best referees from abroad and give them a chance to prove their talent in the ‘world’s best football league’? The Erling Haaland of refereeing could well be out there; just send Dermot Gallagher out there looking for them rather than wasting his/our time making inane comments on Sky Sports.

All this is not to say I think Fulham would have taken the points had those decisions gone in our favour. The stuffing was knocked out of the team by the penalty, which was soft, but Pereira should be more careful having just received a warning prior to the corner being taken. Of course, Mitro was a big miss up front, but Carlos Vinicius looked competent if unremarkable. Hopefully the Serbian superstar will be back for Bournemouth, but Silva won’t rush him back if he doesn’t feel he’s 100% and what better chance for our latest Brazilian front man to get off the mark than against a fellow promoted side?

I don’t think it’s time to say the wheels are falling off; we’ve had a couple of blips against two well-organised and clinical teams. Now Marco, Boa and co need to get the team’s head back in the game and move on to Saturday. Bournemouth have been proving a sterner test under Gary O’Neil than they were with the cardigan bloke in charge, but with The Cottage atmosphere, which has been brilliant for the most part, giving the players that extra buzz, it’s time to get back to winning ways!