Are referees using VAR to duck responsibility?
By Joe Harker
Oh sweet Lord, another weekend of football has been marred by VAR-based decisions.
We were all so sick of individual refereeing mistakes, particularly as replays available to the viewing public often made the mistakes all more egregious. When everyone besides the one person who has to make the decision can see a replay then VAR makes sense.
But the Premier League has already grown tired of VAR incidents and referees are coming under fire for the way they are using technology.
Former referee Keith Hackett urged Premier League referees to use the tools available to them and watch VAR replays themselves on pitchside monitors provided.
VAR checks major decisions and informs the referee whether the decision was correct or not, but no referees have gone to the monitors provided for them to review incidents themselves.
In this way referees are letting another team of officials make judgments without having a look when there is a screen for that very purpose on the side of the pitch.
The referee has the final say but at the moment they are just doing whatever the VAR crew tell them, essentially eschewing responsibility that should rest on their shoulders.
If a decision is so important that VAR is needed to check it then what's the harm in a referee jogging to the sidelines and watching it back for themselves?
The Counter Claim:
Former Liverpool centre back turned Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher was highly critical of VAR, arguing that it should be scrapped as he is "fed up" of the delays and questionable verdicts.
Many in football were willing to accept a delay to refereeing decisions as long as the technology being introduced actually sorted out refereeing mistakes, instead it's a delay for verdicts which are contentious in their own way.
Paul Wilson of The Guardian writes that Premier League referees are using VAR like a "nitpickers' charter" instead of technology intended to prevent the hugely noticeable travesties.
Wilson suggested that the initial idea of VAR was to stop incidents such as Thierry Henry's handball against the Republic of Ireland in 2009, a blatant and decisive example of cheating that was obvious to anyone watching the match on a screen but missed by the officials with the responsibility of running the game.
Instead it's an intrusive form of technology which is stopping games to check so many different things, VAR invents its own controversies instead of preventing more from taking place.
VAR has worked and received plenty of acclaim when used in different ways to the Premier League. The most popular usage of technology in football probably occurred at the 2018 World Cup where officials did check pitchside screens and generally had a smoother use of replays.
Ultimately the final responsibility for refereeing decisions rests with the referee. If they are letting a VAR team check their work and accepting that verdict without having a look themselves then they are forcing the responsibility of decision making onto someone else.