It’s been reported that even if the Video Assistant Referee receives approval for introduction from the authorities next season, Premier League clubs themselves could block its introduction due to ongoing concerns about the application of the system.
The BBC reported ahead of the weekend that although the International Football Association Board (IFAB) have now passed the introduction of VAR into the rulebooks at their meeting in Zurich in time for it to appear at the World Cup in Russia, top flight clubs in England remain more reticient about bringing it until the Premier League rulebooks.
With the most recent responses to VAR being ‘comical’ and ’embarrasing’ following Tottenham Hotspur’s FA Cup replay victory over Rochdale in midweek, every plausible positive thought for bringing it into the game is countered naturally by a negative based on how it currently works, and the confusion it causes for fans.
The BBC report that some Premier League clubs back VAR for only matters of fact incidents, such as incidents inside the penalty box and issues of mistaken identity, whilst others question the quality of trained officials available for a full weekend programme given the delays and confusion seen in the small trials so far.
The Premier League standpoint remains that they are ‘open to considering new techology that assists match officials without disrupting the flow of the game’ but VAR by its very design so far distrupts the flow of matches.
A statement released to the BBC read.
‘We are monitoring closely the video assistant referee trials being conducted in other competitions. The evidence and learning provided by those trials will inform further discussions with our clubs later this season.’
David Elleray, IFAB technical director and former referee seemed to explain succinctly their position.
‘Football has to decide does it want to use in a system which will bring in greater accuracy and fairness, albeit with some delay occasionally. Or do they want to stay where they are, where the fans are complaining that something is clearly wrong, everybody watching on television can see it was wrong, everybody in the stadium can see on their mobile phones that it was wrong, but the one person who needed to see the replay wasn’t allowed to look at the replay? People have to decide do they want greater fairness or do they want continued unfairness because they don’t want to occasional interruption?’
FIFA’s voting standpoint was also clear from president Gianni Infantino.
‘Let’s look at the facts. We’ve analysed almost 1,000 games and the reality is you lose an average of 90 seconds per game. Is that too long? Perhaps. But we lose an average of seven minutes per game due to throw-ins. If we lose seven minutes on throw-ins, we can lose 90 seconds to get decisions right.’
Even though it has now passed at that level, 14 clubs from the Premier League still need to vote it into law for the top flight and that appears unlikely at this stage, and reports from trials around Europe’s top leagues mimick the English experience so far when it comes to delays, problems and poor application so although the system clearly carries advantages unless it can be implemented in a more speedy, reasonable and clear fashion, at least for now it remains a no go.