It’s never a good sign when the referee emerges as a prominent figure in the aftermath of a result and while Craig Pawson can’t be held accountable for a dubious decision in Liverpool‘s FA Cup defeat to West Brom, it’s his use of VAR that’s thrown the whole system into question.
In theory, it ensures a fair contest which should lead to the correct result. The reality however is that VAR comes with its own set of issues, chief among them being the delays that affect a lot more than just the duration of a game.
There were three reviews made in the first half of the match at Anfield itself. Each stoppage disrupted the flow of the game, taking away from its intensity while also mitigating the pendulum effect football matches are prone to when one team hits the back of the net.
Liverpool quickly conceded at the other end after their opener but had their been a delay at the time, emotions may have settled and West Brom’s chance to go level may not have come.
There’s no need for the referee to run over to the pitch-side monitor to review footage already analysed by the VAR. The entire process needs to be fast-tracked. Maybe play on while an incident is under review?
While the TV audience benefits from the clarity and accuracy attached to each ‘big’ decision, the match-going fans in the stadium suffer as the matchday experience continues to deteriorate in the modern era. The confusion in the stands is widespread and hampers the atmosphere inside the stadium.
VAR is not 100-per-cent accurate either, as Chelsea’s Willian would testify after his booking for simulation in a third-round FA Cup replay against Norwich stood despite being reviewed. Some decisions will still come down to perception and should the replays be made available to fans at venues in the future, there’s a danger of violence breaking out.
Football must move with the times and VAR is the way forward, but it still requires extensive work before it can be seamlessly implemented in full. This year’s World Cup is certainly too soon.
Repeat use of the video assistant referee (VAR) by referee Craig Pawson has led to soul searching about where the national game is headed. Predictability, the usual Luddites have been making the most noise as they vocalise their typical fear of change.
But contrary to base opinion, VAR is not here to ruin football. It will make the ‘Beautiful Game’ purer.
Much of the discord about its utilisation by Pawson was the time taken. There is no doubt the current system is clumsy as referees talk to the hub and run across the pitch to view replays, yet this is mostly a problem of perception.
A study by the International Football Association Board into 800 games in which VAR has been utilised judged that less than one per cent of time was lost to the new system. In contrast, 10 per cent was drained away in free-kicks – the usual gamesmanship about forming walls and retreating the correct distance being to blame.
The key challenge is to improve communication to football supporters about its use.
VAR won’t make officiating error free. Chelsea winger Willian can attest to that with his odd booking for simulation against Norwich, while the Bundesliga’s head of the fledgling system was sacked for bias.
But the Football Association have predicted it will cut the mistake rate in half, from four per cent to two per cent. Friday’s match is a perfect example of its judicious application.
If Pawson had not asked for help, two major wrong decisions would have occurred in the first 10 minutes. Correct calls are always worth the wait.
Football likes to think it stands apart. Yet, variations of VAR have enhanced sports from both codes of rugby to cricket, tennis to the NFL.
Broader use will lead to refinement, then acceptance.
Substitutions, extra time and the back-pass rule were once unwelcome interventions. Soon enough, VAR will join them as inextricable parts of the sport’s fabric.
Emre Can looks set for a Liverpool exit with boss Jurgen Klopp seemingly accepting a summer departure.
The Germany midfielder is into the last six months of his current contract with reports suggesting a switch to Juventus is likely.
The Serie A giants were exploring the possibility of bringing the 24-year-old to Italy in the January transfer window but Klopp has dismissed that entirely with Can set to leave on a free transfer in the summer.
“He’ll stay beyond the winter,” Klopp told DAZN. “Emre is still a young lad but he has developed into a great player and is very important for us.
“Sometimes a player just wants to sit out his contract. That’s not cool for the club, but there are moments in which you have to accept it.
“And as long as the player behaves like Emre does, then I have absolutely nothing to complain about. He gives everything he has and identifies with the club.”
Can was one of Liverpool’s poorest performers after they dumped out of the FA Cup in the fourth round by West Brom on Saturday.
I’m also a big Emre Can fan, but it’s not okay to have one exceptional game followed by two well below par ones.— John O'Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) January 27, 2018
The German boss has failed to make it past the fourth-round stage of the competition as Reds boss and with Manchester City running away with the Premier League, the Champions League is now the club’s last shot at silverware this season.
They will face Porto in the last 16 with the first leg tie in Portugal next month.