By Pete Reilly Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/3 15:43:41

Players and pundits demand change

Referee Mike Dean checks the VAR pitchside monitor before disallowing a goal from Manchester City due to handball during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City on November 21 in London. Photo: VCG


The English Premier League has a VAR problem. Every week, despite some of the biggest clubs, best players and smartest coaches in world football, it is all there is to talk about.

Even the players are unable to leave it alone now.

Liverpool's James Milner tweeted his disapproval of the current implementation of the video assistant referee after his side drew 1-1 with Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend.

"We need a serious discussion about VAR," Milner wrote on the social media platform. "Sure I'm not alone in feeling like they are falling out of love with the game in its current state."

The Reds had two goals chalked off before a late tackle by Scottish left-back John Robertson was checked and given as a penalty. Pascal Gross scored it to make the score 1-1.

That was the eighth time this season that VAR has gone against Liverpool and Robertson spoke up about it after Milner's tweet.

"It is affecting players, but it is affecting the whole game," Robertson said. "I used to love going to games and just being in that moment of being able to celebrate a goal. That is being taken out of the game a wee bit.

"Now you are waiting two or three minutes to see if a goal is onside or offside and for me, if it is that tight, then leave it to whatever decision was originally made. There are lots of things you can go over, but Milly's [Milner] tweet was echoing what a lot of footballers and fans are feeling.

"A lot of people I have spoken to are not enjoying football as much as they once did because it is constantly in review, constantly on a screen and you are still not getting the consistency we are looking for. I agree with Milly. A lot of footballers and a lot of fans would agree with him, too.

"Football is a great game that we fell in love with, and are still in love with, and it is important we don't lose that. I am all for change and we have to move with the times but it is important to remember the key values of football that made us fall in love with it."

"Maybe ex-footballers, ex-managers and ex-referees should be involved in some of the decision-making that is happening now," Robertson added.

"In the last 18 months to two years there has been a lot of change in the rules in England in particular. Kevin de Bruyne said the other week that he wasn't sure of the rules any more and we can all echo that. When VAR came in we believed there would be no grey areas, it would all be black and white, and I don't think we are quite getting that now."

Robertson said he had "no problem" if his tackle was a penalty but pointed to the inconsistency that saw similar tackles against Manchester United's Marcus Rashford and Wolves winger Adama Traore go unpunished in last Sunday's games.

"All three have to be a penalty or all three were not penalties. We are just looking for consistency. We believed we would be getting that with VAR and we are not getting it. If we are still discussing referees' decisions after VAR then I would much rather leave it up to the referee's naked eye. It is much easier to accept mistakes made with the naked eye than when there is so much technology around."

Even the pundits are unsure as to VAR's place in the game.

"I was a massive fan of VAR," Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports on Monday night.

"They were bringing it in to help the game and I was defending it at the start as there were teething problems, but now we're at the stage where the majority of people in this country haven't bought into it. I don't think people are enjoying football as much," said the former Liverpool and England defender.

"This was brought in to help referees, and let's not forget we were all calling for it, managers were calling for it when they were getting big decisions wrong. Referees need help.

"But I actually think, in some ways, VAR has exposed referees. I don't think it's been a big help to them. They're having second looks at incidents and they are so obsessed with something that they don't see the bigger picture."

Carragher pointed to the incident in the Merseyside derby earlier in the season where Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk was fouled by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford but offside was given instead.

"This nonsense of going to the screen has got to stop," Carragher added. "It doesn't make any sense."

Gary Neville was opposite Carragher for Monday Night Football and the pundit offered his own take.

"Going to the screen isn't the problem," the former Manchester United fullback said. "What's happened now is that referees' authority is being questioned, their credibility is being questioned and they are even doubting themselves.

"It's the application of technology that is the big problem in this moment in time, and the rules themselves. The handball is a nonsense. The offside rule about the arm is a nonsense. Those two rules need changing. At that point, VAR will become more acceptable."

Neville also said that referees need to be willing to stick to their decision in the face of advice from those in the VAR room at Stockley Park.

"That's the problem at the moment. They look like they have been programmed like robots. They need to chill out and relax, and go over to the screen with the feeling that they are comfortable with their decisions.

"But they're not. They are briefed like mad, they are programmed to the nth degree, they are frightened to death, and the biggest problem I come back to is that the fans hate this thing, so they've got to change it."

There is broad agreement, the question is when.

Posted in: SOCCER

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