Premier League Officiating from a New Perspective
Over the years, football has been home to some of the worst refereeing decisions, such as Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup where he scored with his hand. The obvious answer had been to add technology to the game which allowed referees to re-watch events that had just occurred if they were unsure over a decision. The technology was first introduced into Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A for the 17/18 season and was widely publicised at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where a record 29 penalties were awarded, a massive amount more than the 11 awarded in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup, the previous tournament. Finally, after its partial use in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup for the previous two seasons, VAR was added to the Premier League. But already, after just four match weeks, VAR is already creating talking points, and not for the right reasons…
How is it affecting the beautiful game?
In the second game of the new Premier League season, Manchester City thumped West Ham 5-0 at the Hammers’ home, The London Stadium, but the game was overshadowed by two VAR decisions. The first denied City’s Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus of his second goal and City’s third as teammate Raheem Sterling marginally offside in the build-up. The second VAR talking point came in the form of a penalty retake. Sergio Aguero’s weak effort was easily saved by Lukasz Fabianski however referee Mike Dean deemed West Ham’s Declan Rice to have encroached on the area as the penalty was being taken, which led it to be retaken, with Aguero making no mistake at the second time of asking.
Just 7 days later, in City’s next game, against Tottenham, VAR came into the spotlight as it denied them an injury time winner, again through Gabbriel Jesus, in a game that they thoroughly dominated, with City having 30 shots to Spurs’ three. Jesus thought he had won the game for City after he reacted quickest to the ball coming in from a corner to smash in. However, VAR combined with new handball rules, which state that any goal resulting from a handball, intentional or not, is to be ruled out. So, after a VAR check, it was decided that the ball had brushed off of Aymeric Laporte’s arm and the goal would not stand. A similar event occurred in the first match week of the season in the game between Leicester and Wolves. With the game level at 0-0, a corner that came in hit Willy Boly’s arm before Leander Dendoncker struck from 8 yards out and ran off celebrating, only for it to be later be disallowed by referee Andre Marriner.
VAR seems logical – instant replays for referees to decide the outcome of the events that have just unfolded. However, as a fan, seeing your team score, provoking you to celebrate, before it is ruled out because for example, your striker’s hand was offside when he tapped the ball in, would be a horrible feeling. VAR is supposed to only intervene if the referee has made a clear or obvious error, although surely if a player is a few centimetres offside, that isn’t a clear and obvious decision that needs to be overturned? However, then there is the debate that if a player is offside, they’re offside. If the ball hits their arm/hand, it’s handball. One thing that is for sure is that VAR will continue to raise talking points throughout the Premier League season, as football as a sport continues to change as we know it…
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