With the November international break nearing, England manager Gareth Southgate has been back in front of the press to make his squad announcement for the upcoming games, but the media are well aware he is not shy of commenting on the Video Assistant Referee system now effectively blighting the game we all love, and he was again tasked with a few questions following the absolute shenanigans that were at play in the recent Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea game.
Southgate was in the stands for the match that eventually saw Chelsea take a 4-1 victory over Ange Postecoglou’s impressive side, and whilst most headlines were focused on Mauricio Pochettino’s first face off against his former club, for neutrals in particular, VAR absolutely stole the show.
Nine checks across the 90 minutes, five disallowed goals, two red cards and a whopping 21 minutes of stoppage time are all most are talking about, and whatever you think about our national gaffer and the job he is doing, when it comes to his thoughts on VAR, I continue to be amazed that anyone could disagree with him.
“Well, I was bored watching the game. I was at the game and it just kept stopping. So never mind the players. What about the fans? Now the flip side of that is I think all the decisions were right in the end. So if that’s the purpose of the game, then fine, but it’s sucking the enjoyment out of goals.”
All too often now we are seeing VAR not even agreeing with itself when you look across games being played at the same time, let alone the post mortems that go on over contentious decisions in individual matches. The system does not work, it is supposed to be binary but it is still massively at risk from human prejudice and error and it is simply not worth the money that has been spent introducing it.
VAR claims it has improved accuracy – based on an accuracy standard VAR itself cannot agree on – and we have even had former referee’s talk about how easily it can be manipulated, and fans see the errors for themselves now on a weekly basis. Then we get to Southgate’s gripe.
VAR has taken what was pure about football out of it – instant, unbridled, bursting emotion.
“We’re looking for perfection in an imperfect world, there will always have to be decision making and interpretation. If you search for problems in a penalty box, if you want to freeze any corner, then you could give free-kicks, penalties either way, easily. I wasn’t for (it) at the start and I’ve seen nothing to encourage a change of opinion.”
And for what, many would argue the exact same biases at play that favour some clubs more than others.