Is VAR A ‘Clear And Obvious Error?’

The introduction and implementation of VAR has been an outstanding asset to the game with every decision….

28 November 2019

NORWICH, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 27: The big screen shows that a penalty has been awarded through to VAR during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Manchester United at Carrow Road on October 27, 2019 in Norwich, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

The introduction and implementation of VAR has been an outstanding asset to the game with every decision in its wake being called correctly. It has totally eliminated any controversial debates on these decisions and… OK, ok this is definitely not the case but I am sure it is what its creators intended it to be and remains the ultimate goal.

If a ‘clear and obvious error’ has been made by the referee then Big Brother comes into play to rectify that error. The frustrating part is that there is no consistency or process in arriving at the outcome.

Man Utd’s first real benefit from this was in Paris for the second leg of the Champions League tie last March. While all United fans celebrated the decision by VAR to award the penalty, we were all acutely aware that if we conceded a penalty for the same offence then we would have felt very hard done by.

Taking a look at some of the incidents in recent games still leaves a sense of bewilderment as to how these reviews take place. VAR controversially awarded a penalty when Daniel James was ‘fouled’ in the box against Norwich. I’m not sure there were too many people, even within the United camp, that would have felt any injustice if it wasn’t given. However, where injustice was felt was when the two penalties awarded in that match are saved and both times the goalkeeper is off his line. The new rule this season states that the goalkeeper must have one foot on/in line with the goal line when the kick is taken. Surely the referee has made a clear and obvious error by not noticing this?!

Another new rule introduced is that any goal scored or created with the use of a hand or arm will be disallowed – even if it is accidental. Upon review, Sadio Mane’s effort for Liverpool earlier this season was ruled out for this very reason. Without VAR there is no doubt that, incorrectly so, this would have been allowed to stand. In our latest game at Bramall Lane, however, Oli McBurnie’s equalising strike was checked by VAR for handball also but this time the goal was allowed to stand. It seemed obvious that the ball struck the top of his arm and while it was clear it was not intentional the decision didn’t comply with the rules. So where is the consistency?

What isn’t so clear and obvious is its full scope when it’s used. When Rashford scored against Liverpool, VAR was looking at whether Origi was fouled at the edge of United’s area in the build up to that goal. The referee had a clear view of the challenge in real time, felt there was no action to be taken and yet when the counter attack resulted in a goal it was felt there was a need to review it again. The correct decision was made once more but it begs the question – where is the line on how far back you review these situations?

Every club will have decisions go for them and against them this season. You just hope that the balance tips in the favour of yours. Until such time as the referee and video assistant referee can be heard discussing the incident then there will always be a dark cloud hanging over this. The best referees in rugby union can be clearly heard describing what they have seen and what they are asking to be checked. The same needs to be done in football and the decision, once made, should be explained to both captains before allowing the game to continue. This is the only way that there will ever be a clear and transparent process behind each decision being made.

VAR – verdict pending…

What do you think?

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