England manager Gareth Southgate certainly has hit critics in the realms of foot ball fandom given his team selections, favourites and often contradictory statements when it comes to picking players on merit, but given the utter disaster that the implementation of the Video Assistant Referee technology has become, few in the wider world of football will disagree with his more recent comments.
We can ignore the controversies from previous seasons, as almost every single game so far in the 2023/24 Premier League campaign has had at least one issue that has enraged fans and pundits alike, and although it is being thoroughly overblown in the press and the media, with nonsensical calls for the Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool game to be replayed over a decision that all clubs (at some point) have suffered from, but it again proves that VAR cannot continue in the manner of its current use.
It has not improved the game, despite PGMOL’s insistence it has, and it has not improved the accuracy of decisions or the over all fairness afforded to each competing side. It has, however, cost millions, and completely ruined the natural ‘in the moment’ fan experience as we often wait five minutes for idiots to decide that they can understand a simple picture (when they are not protecting their friends from an obviously atrocious decision as Mike Dean recently admitted).
“I was always brought up as a kid that the referee’s decision was final. You might agree or disagree but we have to get on with it. All I would say is everybody used to go to the pub and moan about the ref and they still go to the pub and moan about the ref. So I’m not sure what we’ve resolved, really.”
That is the crux of the point, it has solved nothing other than determining itself as useful and solving things, fans are usually, even more confused than ever at the decisions they are now supposed to accept, the associated delays and the effect that has on the true draw of the sport – the pure, in the moment unadulterated emotion release.
“When I am at games I am always conscious that the only people who don’t know what is going on are the people who have paid to go. I find that really difficult. I am sitting in the stadium next to people and I am lucky as I normally get a free ticket and other people pay a lot of money and haven’t got a clue or are on the phone to someone at home asking what’s going on. The frustration, you can feel it in the stadium, you can feel the view. I know if we didn’t have it people would go back to, ‘well this could be resolved’, but when I am in the stadiums my sense is they don’t necessarily want 14 minutes of added time or a decision by something that they are not totally across the process of.”
I may only be speaking for myself, but this is the first time in a long time I cannot disagree with Southgate’s take.