It was only one week ago that Reuters UK was howling that the Nations League shows VAR reaching beyond its original scope. While the writer used the opinion of former UEFA president Michel Platini, hardly a paragon of virtue, as the underlying reason for his caution, one-thirds of the way into the article we discover the real reason for his attacks on VAR, is because “England had two goals disallowed after VAR reviews at the Nations League in Portugal when not even their opponents complained of an infraction.” The shock, the horror.
What is particularly shameful about the Reuters piece is they did not identify a single instance where the VAR made an error. To the contrary, their problem is VAR is far more right than wrong. Unable to make a valid, verifiable case that VAR is making wrong decisions, Reuters comes up with the convoluted accusation that VAR is engaged in “a search for refereeing perfection”.
Quick. Someone needs to send Reuters the memo. VAR became necessary because of too many cases of referee imperfections. FIFA disclosed that pre-VAR their referees got it right 95% of the time. (By the way, who believes Mike Riley’s assertion that his PGMOL referees get 96% of decisions right.) The vast majority of football fans who are at home watching the game on increasingly high definition TVs (i.e. the millions who drive sports broadcasting, lining the pockets of the broadcasters, the football leagues and ultimately the pockets of the players) are witnesses to way too many blatant errors by referees. Ultimately that was the key driver behind VAR despite the powerful objections of those who tried to maintain the status quo. One such was Monsieur Platini, the same man, who, in his former official capacity, is reported to have attempted manipulation of the last Euro in favor of his native France.
The problem for Reuters is how to attack VAR when the majority of fans are able to see for themselves, often in slow motion replay and from diverse TV angles, that referees often get it wrong. How to attack VAR when it is only being used to decide clear and obvious errors?
- Whether goals should stand
- Penalty decisions
- Direct red cards shown or not shown
- Mistaken identity.
While the thrust of the article was to suggest that somehow England was robbed, Reuters attempted to force feed one example from the current Women’s World Cup to somehow prove VAR was being too perfect. “Griedge Mbock Bathy had a wonderful strike for France disallowed against South Korea because the tip of her foot was ahead of the last defender even though the rest of her body was line.” Arsenal fans must be shaking their head when, season before last, striker Lacazette had a goal disallowed because a toe was offside but it didn’t deserve a sympathetic article by Reuters attacking the Assistant Referee for being too much of a perfectionist.
Meanwhile the Women’s World Cup, which FIFA originally planned not to implement VAR until there was a crescendo of protests that if is good for the men’s game why not the women, is progressing very well with glorious headlines despite increasingly desperate attempts by mainstream media to link VAR to some controversy. It is simply the bark of a dog at the flying bird. Noisy but will the birds be scared?