Imagine the scenes.
It’s the 93rd minute and Arsenal are one-up against Tottenham. Arsenal know that a win will secure Champions league football yet again. Spurs know that they just need a draw.
A cross comes in, there’s a mix-up in the Arsenal defence, and the ball falls to Harry Kane, unmarked, at the back post for a tap-in. The Spurs fans are going crazy. Arsenal fans sit with their head in their hands.
The referee has signalled.
The goal is going to the video ref.
Was Kane ever-so-slightly ahead of the ball when the cross came in? We’ll know in 30 seconds, not from our friends on Twitter, from the officials. It will matter.
The referee raises his arm. Kane was offside! The goal is ruled out. The Spurs fans, just seconds ago basking in the glory they’ve craved so long for finishing above Arsenal are crushed. Arsenal fans are crying with laughter once again.
This was a debate that took place on Twitter on Tuesday night as we waited for the video ref to make two calls over two goals in the France v Spain game. VAR got them right while the linesmen got them wrong.
It was ruining the spontaneity of the game, said some. Mistakes are part of the game, said others. People were arguing that getting decisions wrong was part of what made the game so enjoyable.
Video refs don’t spoil the game, they only change it slightly, and in ways that could be even more exciting than things we’ve experienced so far in the history of football.
Not all decisions will go to the VAR, and when they do we will have situations like the one invented above.
Would you rather a game-deciding call was right or quick? I guess it depends on which side of the decision your side falls.
I’d rather live in a world where Anthony Taylor and Mike Dean are no longer allowed to make the game all about them and their horrendous decisions. I want to watch a game where the rules are followed and applied equally. I want red cards issued at the time of the offence, not after the game when it no longer matters for the injured team.
I want moves that are too quick for the human eye to catch to matter.
What was lost in amongst the debate over waiting for decisions was that the France v Spain game was a friendly. They don’t matter. When VARs are used in games that do, the difference will be clear. No longer will a manager lose his job for a bad series of results that have seen some really poor refereeing decisions affect the outcome.
This is a multi-billion pound industry and we have the ability to make it better and fairer for all. Officials simply cannot be expected to get every decision right. Equally, fans should not be expected to accept wrong decisions – especially not when we have the ability to do something about it.
There was a time when shirts didn’t have numbers, teams didn’t have subs, and, games weren’t played at night because we had no floodlights. We didn’t always reveal the amount of injury time to be added on, nor did we have fourth officials or miked-up main ones.
Things change in football, sometimes for worse, but usually for the better.
Change is hard for many, but in 10 years time, nobody will even notice VARs as anything remarkable, just like we don’t hear anyone today saying ‘I liked it better when you weren’t allowed to make substitutes’.