Arsenal have been caught by dodgy decisions this season, including on the road against Watford, increasing the calls for video technology to be implemented.
Video assistant referees, have been introduced in different leagues and tournaments this season. There have been a few methods of implementation, each bringing both positives and negatives.
We’re going to have a look at a couple of methods and what we think would work best.
The first mainstream usage of the system came at the Confederations Cup, and was largely a disappointment. The general system was as follows:
If the referee was unsure about a decision he’d made, he’d take a time-out, and speak to the Video Assistant. The assistant could re-watch the action, inform the referee if he’d got it wrong, at which point the decision could be reversed.
The problem was that this took a long time, and didn’t involve the referee actually being able to see the footage himself. He was simply advised via a headset, and then had to make a call based on that.
The MLS has a much better system. As Howard Webb explains, the Video Assistant Referee is checking the footage throughout the match, focusing on goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity. If they think they’ve spotted a clear error, they notify the ref.
At that stage, the referee can choose whether to take the advice of the assistant and reverse the decision, or take a look at it himself on a pitch-side monitor.
This way, the referee doesn’t stop the game himself, he’s always advised when to review, which should cut down on the amount of time wasted reviewing correct decisions.
Plus, it’s only being used when there are long stoppages. You rarely see a goal or red card that doesn’t take 30 seconds or more off the clock, so you may as well use that time for review footage. The ref can also see the replay, unlike the Confederations Cup system.
I think the MLS method could work very well in the Premier League, but I’d have a couple of reservations.
Firstly, if referees can view the incident on a screen, I’d bring in a rule to book any player who followed the referee over to watch it with him. If that isn’t done, I can imagine refs being pressured into decisions by players crowded around him pointing at the screen.
Secondly, as well as goals, red cards, penalties and mistaken identity, I’d bring it in for ‘offside’ goals, as long as the referee didn’t blow his whistle until after the ball went into the net. If the ball was in the net before the referee blew, then the defence can’t complain that they’d stopped playing. Goals like Lacazette’s against Stoke could be reviewed and given if they were judged to be on.
Regardless of the system, I think any method is better than watching a Richarlison ‘dive’ rewarded with a penalty and a goal. Even if the player had been punished with a retrospective ban, that wouldn’t give Arsenal any points back.
For me, VAR is the only way to ensure correct decisions are made in those kinds of areas, because referees will never be perfect.
I don’t expect VAR to be perfect either. Occasionally there will be a decision or two that goes the wrong way even after review, but as long as they get more right than they do now, I think it’s worth it and certainly better than what we have now with Premier League referees.