WHEN technology moved in a new direction in the 1990s, we were told all the gadgets and gizmos being invented in Californian garages would make our lives less labour-intensive, simpler, more wonderful and enriched. Those that wondered what would happen to all the people who were not in finance or graduates of tech schools or designers didn’t foresee a future of service and call centres and coffee bars. They also wouldn’t have predicted that football, that simplest of games, would become more complex, less spontaneous and a slave to the mighty god VAR.
No, VAR is not a Norse god, not a miracle drug and it is certainly not the panacea for all the game’s ills. In fact, VAR has become a noose around the neck of football and while technology is a pre-requisite, it is not being applied properly. Just as business became over-fascinated with technology and didn’t quite know how to best leverage it, football is allowing the technology to damage the very essence of the world’s most popular pastime.
Is it appropriate to make football a precision game played at speed, a game where a fingertip can be considered offside when the virtual “line” cannot be seen by anyone other than men in dark rooms analysing the build-up to a “goal”?
Was this what VAR was supposed to be all about – experts scanning every goal for reasons not to give it – like insurance companies desperately trying to find a get-out of every claim?
Wasn’t it about solving contention, not creating it? And when we mean contention, wasn’t the definition really to be applied to controversial incidents, not as an affirmation of every goal, every free kick, every card? If we allow the game to be decided by technicians rolling back the film, why do we really need referees, are they not the decision-makers or has the fear of accountability seen them embrace the opportunity to apportion blame to shady figures in dark rooms?
These are early days (actually, are they really early now?) and eventually, we will see we are destroying a fast-paced sport that was attractive to the masses because of its simplicity and its ease of interpretation.
How can someone be offside by millimetres when a goal or penalty wouldn’t be given in the same circumstances? And while the penalty area provides the markings to allow defenders to see if they are tackling in the danger zone, being offside by a fraction that cannot be seen by the naked eye seems ludicrous.
Too many decisions are being deferred, too many goals disallowed and some of the fun is being removed from football. Technology needs to be applied properly and in the spirit of the game. Above all, we have to remember this is not a case of sending people in space and needing life-saving accuracy, it is a game where the aim is sending a leather ball into a big goal that has big nets. And the players are not astronauts, they are men and women with all the faults that come with being a human being. Football is not played by robots. Yet.