Heung-Min Son’s “offside” ruling against Leicester, West Ham’s Sebastien Haller not given a penalty against Norwich City after he was clearly fouled, the four-minute decision on Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick being offside against Tottenham and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s apparent handball against Manchester City on Sunday that wasn’t ruled as a penalty; the list of controversial calls can go on just from this season’s Premier League as the league introduced Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, for the first time. However, the way it’s used is much different than the way it was utilized in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Many fans of the global sport say that VAR is ruining the game they love, while others call to simply wait, as it is new technology. Yes, I believe that VAR is atrocious, but one thing is for certain: It’s here to stay whether people like it or not, but changes need to be made sooner rather than later.
According to the Premier League’s website, VAR is only used for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents.” These situations include: Identifying offside on goals, penalties, instant red cards or misidentification. However, the referee on the field has the final say, regardless if VARs believe the decision was wrong. The hotspot of most VAR calls? Offside rulings; and this is where fans call for VAR to be removed.
There have been numerous cases where VAR disallowed a goal because a player was offside, however when they show the play in review, the player is millimeters over the offside line, sometimes not even seen as offside. As stated earlier, this was seen at the Tottenham Hotspur vs. Leicester City match where Son passed the ball to Serge Aurier, but it was ruled offside because Son’s shoulder was past one of Leicester’s defenders.
Penalties are also a hot topic when it comes to VAR, especially following Liverpool’s match at Anfield on Sunday against Manchester City. The play in question was early in the first half, when Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold’s hand touched the ball, however, the referee said it was not a handball and therefore not a penalty for the Citizens because he didn’t have “enough time to take his hand away.” In reality, Trent had plenty of time to move his arm out of the way.
Liverpool fans were obviously pleased with the decision based on the Premier League’s new handball rule, which states that any contact with the ball with your arm or hand is a foul, City should’ve been awarded a penalty. Yes, Bernardo Silva’s arm touched the ball before Trent’s did, but Dejan Lovren tried to clear the ball thus resulting in Silva’s handball; and the new rule gives leeway to “ricocheted handballs.” Under the new rule, the league states that “a handball will not be awarded if the ball touches a player’s hand/arm directly from their own head/body/foot or the head/body/foot of another player who is close/nearby.”
As stated earlier, VAR in the Premier League is much different than the way VAR is used in other leagues, the Champions League and the World Cup; for instance, the rules of VAR.
The only way for VAR to be better is if the Premier League is at-level with all of the other VAR rules across Europe rather than being unique and having its own rules. Additionally, referees on the field need to have access to a monitor on the sideline in order to see the play, rather than hearing what VARs are saying to them. Lastly, and I cannot stress this enough, if VAR officials deem the referee’s call to be wrong, then their decision should overrule the referee’s. There’s no reason for new technology to be implemented just for it to not make the final decisions should the ref be at fault.
Soccer is a sport loved by many across the Earth, especially in England. If the Premier League thinks they’re special and should have their own rules about VAR, they are very much wrong. Changes need to be made not only so they align with other VAR rules across Europe, but so they too don’t make the wrong calls.