The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) made its debut in English football, with it directly being consulted with for the first time during Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Stamford Bridge’s referee Martin Atkinson used Neil Swarbrick, the video official in a London base, during both the first and the second half for penalty incidents involving both the Blues and the Gunners, as the contest ended in a goalless draw, quite the opposite conclusion to the game played between the two sides seven days earlier in the Premier League. We’ll take a look at the key incidents where VAR was called upon and see if it was successful or not, and if we can look forward to its continued involvement in English football…
Arsenal Penalty Shout: Victor Moses on Ainsley Maitland-Niles (first half)
Towards the end of the first half, Chelsea’s Nigerian wing-back made a challenge on his opposite man, and questions were asked about whether he made contact with the Arsenal youngster’s boot, with Maitland-Niles falling to the ground. Overall, there was no doubt that, after taking a few minutes to consult VAR, both Atkinson and Swarbrick made the right decision not to award the penalty, as Moses’ contact with the Arsenal wing-back was minimal at best. However, what is interesting to consider is if VAR would have ruled out Hector Bellerin’s foul on Eden Hazard at the Emirates Stadium last Wednesday in the Premier League encounter, as both challenges were remarkably similar. This proves that VAR’s biggest challenge (no pun intended) will be to create consistency in refereeing, something that Arsene Wenger has made very public in recent weeks. Yet, when VAR was called upon on Wednesday night, it made the right decision here.
(Image from the Sun)
Chelsea Penalty Shout: Danny Welbeck on Cesc Fabregas (second half)
At the same end of Stamford Bridge, Danny Welbeck put a foot in on Cesc Fabregas, who was bursting into the penalty area. It is true that the Englishman did take a bit of the man, but what wasn’t clear in real time was if Welbeck got a touch on the ball. Thanks to the video technology, it was proven that he did indeed touch the ball, another example where the VAR got it right on Wednesday night. At first look, many spectators and fans must have thought, “you see them given” which makes VAR all the more fascinating, as now we have a definite ruling on whether a decision is correct or not. Phrases like “six of one and half a dozen of the other” with regards to penalties and goals will now have to be eradicated, and while it reduces the amount of debate after the game, it does make football matches fairer overall.
(Image from the Sun)
Delays to the Match?
A common complaint about the idea of video technology is that deliberating over decisions could waste time and disrupt the momentum during games. However, these claims were proved false as Atkinson added the time used to think over contentious claims at the end of the game, as we saw five minutes of injury time in a second half which was lacking in not only quality, but also stoppages. This does add a level of excitement to football matches, which is certainly contrary to the criticisms of VAR, as more added time, particularly in tight encounters like Wednesday night, can lead to more enticing conclusions and tense endings to games. If referees continue to add time on at the end of the game as a result of consulting VAR, then it can do no harm to the outcome and the equity of our domestic games.
Overall, we think that VAR was a success on Wednesday night, and although it is early days yet, the signs look promising as we try to support and help referees with regards to making the right decision.
What do you think? Is the thought of VAR a positive thing for English football? Or do you not like the idea and want to continue the way it is currently? Let us know your opinions.