Jack the Lad: Wipe out the glaring errors

7th February 2018

Loyal Swans supporter and website blogger Jack the Lad gives his take on the issue everyone in football is talking about, VAR.

With the transfer window now closed for another few months, we can all go back to talking about the really hot topic in football at the moment – video assistant referees.

VAR was supposed to put an end to debates over dodgy decisions, but the new technology seems to have caused even more arguments.

The biggest frustration for me isn’t the time it took to decide whether Mo Salah had been pulled back against West Brom, or whether Alvaro Morata dived against Norwich City, it is why the system hasn’t been available when it could really have been put to good use.

With incidents like the two above, VAR just muddies the water because they are matters of opinion.

Was Salah pulled back? Some would say yes, others would say the force wasn’t sufficient to send him crashing to the ground.

As someone who was brought up watching the likes of Ron Harris and our very own Tommy Smith flying into challenges, I’m less likely to think a robust challenge is a foul than a younger person who is more used to today’s sanitised version of the game.

Personally, one of the most annoying phrases in the modern game is ‘there was contact, so the player is entitled to go down’.

Call me old fashioned, but a player is only entitled go down when he has been impeded with such force that he has no choice but to go down.

Going down should be gravity’s decision rather than the player’s! Others will wholeheartedly disagree with that view, and they are entirely entitled to do so.

You could get a situation where the on-field ref and the VAR disagree over a borderline decision.

In these cases the decision should be left to the match referee and his personal interpretation of the incident.

Where the system could really come into its own is in situations where there is no doubt a mistake has been made or an offence has been missed.

Typically, there have been a number of examples in Swans games recently where VAR, had it been in use, would have come into play to our benefit.

For example, if we’d had VAR at the Swans v Spurs game last month, Fernando Llorente’s goal would have been ruled out because he was clearly offside.

No argument, no opinion, just plain offside. The error could have been rectified in seconds.

Then there was the handball by Newcastle midfielder Mohamed Diame at St James’ Park.

Although this decision wasn’t quite as black and white as Llorente’s, few would have argued that the offence wasn’t deliberate and that a penalty and sending off wasn’t the right decision.

Then there was Notts County’s goal in the FA Cup at Meadow Lane. Although it was a tight decision, one of the angles showed the ball was clearly out of play when it was crossed for the equaliser.

Going back further, what about last season's match against Saturday's opponents Burnley, when Sam Vokes handled the ball inside the Swansea 18-yard box, yet Burnley were awarded the penalty?

Away from Swans matches, there was Tottenham's super-fast goal against Manchester United the other night, when Harry Kane, who played a big part in the goal, was clearly at least a yard inside the United half when Spurs kicked off. The VAR system would have disallowed the goal.

These are the kind of decisions where VAR could really make a difference – picking up clear errors rather than adding to the debate on borderline decisions, over whether a challenge is a clean tackle or a foul.

What football fans really want is for the absolutely glaring errors to be eradicated from the game, where the VAR could have a quiet word in the ref’s ear just to say: “You’ve missed a bad one there, you may want to look at it again.”

Decisions like Thierry Henry’s handball goal for France against Republic of Ireland in 2009 could have been overturned.

Had VAR been in use back then, just a quick word in the ref’s ear would have saved a lot of embarrassment for the officials and a lot of heartache for the Irish.

Similarly, when referee Ovidiu Hategan adjudged Corry Evans to have handled Xherdan Shaqiri's shot inside the area during last year's World Cup play-off match between Northern Ireland and Switzerland, VAR could have ensured the correct decision was made.

Not only will Northern Ireland miss out on this year's World Cup in Russia, but so will Hategan, who was dropped from Fifa's 36-strong panel of referees as a result of the error, which he admitted to.

Instead of trying to make VAR a cure-all solution for every contentious decision, let it concentrate on the glaring errors.

Accept that it won't pick up every mistake, but it could make sure notorious mistakes like the Henry handball, Maradona's hand of God goal in 1986 and Frank Lampard's disallowed goal against Germany at the 2010 World Cup won't happen again.

C'mon you Swans!