The VAR revolution has taken over the champions league and the mainstream media is milking it. Headline after headline is devoted to the topic as online publications shamelessly position themselves to gain traffic and our fleeting eyeballs. Nearly 8 hours after the games and NewsNow, which hardly has any stories on VAR, is buzzing according to my screenshot below.
Some decided to go full tabloid and extract as much sensationalism as possible, evident by the following the headlines.
Go f*** yourselves! Neymar slams Man Utd VAR penalty decision after PSG crash out of Champions League – Evening Standard
Neymar blasts “go f*** yourselves” after contentious VAR decision sends PSG out – The Mirror
Others decided it was an opportunity to stir the pot by getting the opinion of “famous’ ex-pros.
“I don’t care what any referee tells me, that just isn’t handball’: Rio Ferdinand insists Manchester United’s last-gasp penalty shouldn’t have been given against PSG as Michael Owen agrees ‘it’s not one in a million years” – Daily Mail
The Mirror rolls out an ex-PGMOL referee, Peter Walton to give an expert opinion.
“Ex-Premier League ref reveals why controversial Man Utd VAR penalty was CORRECT”
Rob Atkinson of the blog, “Life, Leeds United, The Universe and Everything” is far from mainstream but he decides to take the piss:
“VAR Has Now Ruled That Man United Beat Leeds United to the 1992 League Title”
If we get all swept up in the controversy, we miss the point entirely. VAR is a tool for the referees and despite its imperfections it is here to stay. The outraged denizens on twitter remind me of those who refused to adopt the personal computer in the 1980s. They raged how the pc was clunky and inefficient, that it lacked sufficient programs and was limited to word processing and spreadsheets. Thirty years most of these people are now struggling with the keyboard on their smartphones, many barely able to find the power button on a laptop. The technological revolution has sped onwards leaving them in the dust.
A similar fate awaits Mike Riley and the PGMOL. They spent the last two years resisting VAR despite Arsene Wenger’s prescient warning in 2017:
“We are behind the rest of the world,
“The Premier League has again decided not to go for VAR and I believe that is a very, very bad decision.”
At the time some 40 countries were using, trialling or interested in VAR technology, and both Germany and Italy introduced VAR across their top leagues that season. By 2018 the Spanish, Italian and French leagues had followed. Needless to say the FIFA world cup last August was when VAR was successfully launched on the international stage.
After a scandal in the group stage of the champions league last December, within two months UEFA implemented VAR in the knockout stages as we are now witnessing. Just imagine how their executives are now laughing with relief. Instead of them being in the dock for failure to implement VAR, it is the referees who are under pressure to explain their decisions in the latest round of matches.
Meanwhile Mike Riley and the PGMOL are doing their best to sabotage the implementation of VAR by engaging in trials which are inconsistent with the FIFA-IFAB protocol, specifically attempting to exclude a pitchside monitor for use by the on-field referee. Can you imagine the latitude for corruption and manipulation when the on-field referee in the Premier League cannot review a controversial decision during a match. Yet he/she, by FIFA law, has the final say.
But it is becoming clear UEFA is not going to put up with the shenanigans of Mike Riley and the FA. The news this week that PL referees will not be allowed to referee games in the knock-out stages of the champions league because they have no experience in using VAR was a serious body blow. Chances of English referees ever being considered for big games in FIFA and UEFA international competitions are dwindling daily. Without experience in using a pitchside monitor those chances are virtually zero. Thanks to the arrogance and hubris of those in authority, English referees will be consigned to the PL and the bush leagues.
In conclusion, Arsene Wenger made the ominous warning in 2017:
“The Premier League has been created by people who had a progressive mind and wanted to be in front of the rest in Europe. It worked,
“The young generation is used to [VAR] and worldwide, they might move away from us because they see that in other countries they do it.”