The beautiful game flows again after A-League's dismissal of VAR folly

It has taken only a few matches in the A-League's revamped season for football to see for itself how much better and more appealing a spectacle it is without the hated VAR.


Source: AAP

Instead of the stop-start situations foisted upon us by the use of technology, we could put our feet up and enjoy a set of matches that flowed beautifully and reminded us of what the game was like before the VAR madness reared its ugly head.

A goal can now be celebrated spontaneously because everyone knows that it will not be disallowed for some inconsequential infringement and usually after a lengthy delay.

VAR's endless stoppages caused so much controversy and frustration since its introduction three seasons ago that it dominated the game's narrative.

All of sudden we stopped talking about passing angles and fingertip saves in favour of camera angles and fingertip offsides.

VAR also became a convenient last line of defence for teams that conceded a goal: they would seek technology's assistance in the hope it finds something wrong in the lead-up and lets them off the hook.

This is not football as we know it and it would take plenty of courage for the A-League to dismiss all the positive evidence and bring back VAR for the finals. The first week of the competition's restart showed that the controversial system is something we could and should do without.

Of course, referees will err occasionally but that has always been and will always be the case. Especially now that the game is faster than it has ever been.

It is wrong for coaches to lament the absence of VAR when a ref's call goes against them, as Wellington Phoenix's Ufuk Talay did after his side's 3-1 loss to Sydney FC that featured two dubious decisions.

The point about VAR is not its validity but the chaos and farce it causes for the sake of fixing some decisions.

Coaches in particular need to be responsible about this. They should look at the bigger picture and what's good for the game not raise the VAR issue when it suits them.

Why can't teams take a wrong decision on the chin, lament the bad luck and just move on? These things usually even themselves out, don't they?

Football is not perfect but its glorious imperfections are among the most enduring qualities of the world's most popular game.
The absence of VAR is also having a collateral effect on the game.

Referees have been given a chance to again be proper refs and adjudicate on situations there and then without the temptation of playing it safe and shifting their responsibility of making calls to the VAR who could be sitting in a studio hundreds of kilometres away.

Referees are easy scapegoats for coaches or players seeking to masquerade their faults, and if the truth be told the complaints are not always unjustified.

However, if there is one way for our officials to improve, then it is by providing them with a carte blanche to make judgments as they see fit.

Giving referees a VAR outlet and an excuse for basically not doing their job will never make them more efficient and will only encourage them to cover themselves, use the convenient safety net provided by technology and in the process ruin the game as a free-flowing spectacle.

This columnist has often been critical of refereeing standards in Australia (not without reason, mind you).

Technology, however, has made us fully appreciate how hard it is to be a referee especially when we remember that it is not the first time that the VARs get it wrong even after examining an incident multiple times.

So if we can cut the officials a bit of slack and let them know that 'world war three' would not break out if they miss a handball, an offside or a penalty, we could all move on and regain our confidence in them and in the game we all love.

Fans would be perfectly entitled to feel badly let down if the A-League brought back the VAR folly when the competition is doing so well without it.

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4 min read
Published 23 July 2020 at 12:21pm
By Philip Micallef