The Mailbox knows VAR is clearly and obviously f**ked

Date published: Monday 21st October 2019 9:49

Read a Mailbox without any VAR talk, then send your thoughts to


We have a problem with VAR…
….. and it isn’t VAR itself, or at least, not to the degree that many are saying.

Some will hate it regardless but it’s not being given a chance in the Premier League. Alan Shearer alluded to it on MOTD on Saturday. It’s not being used properly. The question is, why not?

The answer? Probably Mike Riley. It appears (from what I’ve read/heard) that he has actively discouraged referees from using the pitch-side monitors. I believe this is because he doesn’t want to add to the game time. It also appears that he doesn’t want the Stockley Park official to overturn or undermine the referee. That seems to be borne out by (for one instance amongst many), the ridiculous decision (by both Anthony Taylor and VAR official) not to award Man City a penalty on Saturday. OK, City were 2-0 up at the time but a penalty is a penalty. The only incidents where VAR has been used to change decisions is regarding offsides. Fans, players, managers, pundits, commentators etc. have all been crying out for the rules to be applied consistently by officials. Now that we have the tools to improve that consistency, it’s being used inconsistently and making the situation worse! I regularly watch other leagues and whilst that doesn’t make me any sort of expert, I believe VAR has been used for the greater good. It’s not perfect, it never can be.

If all the above reasons for the lack of VAR deployment in the PL are true then it shows how ridiculous the situation is. Personal opinion of course, but pre-VAR the standard of officiating in the PL was lower, much lower, than in the other major European leagues, and it certainly wasn’t perfect on the continent. The difference in standards are now even wider.

I don’t know how much authority Pierluigi Collina (the UEFA referees chief) has to enforce changes with regard to VAR use here but if I were in his position I would prevent PL referees from being selected for Champions League games until such time that the PL officials are brought in line with officials in other leagues, who use VAR to the full. That may sound harsh on the PL officials themselves but if they’re not fully equipped to officiate to CL standards then it’s not fair to inflict them on those games.

The debates about which is the best league in the world will go on and on till kingdom come but right now the PL, whatever the quality of the football it serves up, is being undermined by the lack of proper VAR use compared to La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Champions League etc. Surely it needs to be used fully for at least a season to assess whether its longer term use is going to be viable.
Dave Payn, Oban


I don’t have an issue with VAR per se, but like many things it is the implementation of it in the PL that is breaking my heart.

On Saturday lunchtime, I had to sit through Ireland being given a thorough schooling by the All Blacks. What I also witnessed was a flawless display of match officialdom, complete with TMO. Those of us here watching on TV were no better informed than the people in the stadium. It was clear what was being reviewed, and fair do’s to Nigel Owens he got it 100% right. Great officiating, shame about the result.

Afterwards I sat in the stand at White Hart Lane (it’s still WHL to me). There were a number of VAR calls, but nobody in the ground had a clue what was being reviewed. The only thing we were informed of was ‘VAR check complete’, and they couldn’t even get that right. The much hyped ‘best league in the world (TM)’ is an absolute shambles in implementing this technology. It is an insult to the paying customers who actually go to the games, that those watching on tv across the world are better informed as to what is happening than those of us who pay to attend the match.

Even as a Spurs fan, I have to admit amazement that Watford weren’t given a penalty, nearly as amazed as I was that Ben Foster somehow failed to elicit a yellow card for time-wasting from the moment Watford went ahead. Football is no longer the same everywhere it is played, so at the professional level, why not reduce it to two halves to 40 minutes, and stop the clock in the stadium, every time the ball is out of play, or when players mysteriously develop cramp at the far side of the field from the dugouts. That is just as much cheating as any other offence. Everyone does it some say, all the more reason to stop it say I.

Ireland at least had the consolation of being beaten by a truly great team. Neither Spurs or Watford can draw any consolation from two fairly inept team performances in what is allegedly the ‘best league in the world’.
Jim French (Spurs sine ’59) Herts


Get rid
I’m not going to complain about the decisions from yesterday. I can see why they went the way they did. However, I think the first decision yesterday (combined with others over the weekend) shows a major flaw with VAR in that it does not achieve the desired effect on the game.

Why do we have VAR? To achieve the right decision, thereby reducing the level of controversy surrounding the game. The decisions that are being made show that VAR is not doing that. Take the first goal yesterday. In a VARless word, I probably have no problem with that goal. Was it a foul? Maybe, but hard to see for sure during the course of the game and I doubt I would have been finishing the match with a sense of injustice. With VAR though, I feel worse. It’s replayed time and time again and I’m thinking, “How is that not a foul? How can you not see that on the replay. It’s clear as day.” Now maybe that’s my Liverpool-tinted specs but that’s not the point. The point is that VAR is actually increasing the sense of injustice, not reducing it.

The Mane one I think that they did get correct. The rules have changed, and now if it hits your hand and you score a goal, the goal is disallowed. It hit Mane’s hand, so, no goal. Fair enough and example of VAR woking.

Those two decisions though,  show where VAR works and where it doesn’t and why, on the whole, I think it is bad for football. VAR, in any sport works at it’s best when the decision being made is a clear, observable (or measurable by technology) objective choice. In most sports, that is the majority of decisions.

In rugby they ask questions such as: Was the ball grounded? Yes or no? Was that pass forward? Yes or no? Was a foot in touch? Yes or no? These are usually fairly clear cut, therefore you don’t get that ongoing debate and argument. The right decision is usually reached. This has changed slightly in the current World Cup where changes to the high tackle rules have seen more subjective questions needing to be asked. Did the player wrap his arms sufficiently? Was the tackled player lowering his body position? What was the intent? This has caused more controversy and shows that subjective calls will always be more controversial that objective ones. However, the majority of reviewed decisions are more easily observed and agreed on.

In cricket, again we are looking at objective decisions. Did the player hit the ball? Was it a clean catch? Was the ball going on to hit the stumps? Was it a run out? In the vast majority of cases, these are clear decisions, and they are objective. The umpires are not making any other decision than what they see.

This is why football is so much more difficult to use VAR effectively, because decisions are far more subjective. Were the hands in an unnatural position? Was the ball won cleanly? Did the player dive? Ask 100 neutrals about the first United goal and you’ll find a range of decisions, even if they watch the replay 50 times. That’s the trouble football will always have. While some decisions, such as the Mane goal, are simple to see and they are an objective decision, the majority of issues on the football field are not.

I was a VAR advocate two years ago. Now I want it gone from the game. We’ve tried it, it’s making things worse. Time to get rid of it.
Mike, LFC, London


Very Arrogant Referees
I know you’ve had and will have many more e-mails about VAR and this week it’s our turn (and Watfords’) to bemoan our luck, but can I please repeat, don’t blame VAR, blame the morons who incorrectly implement it time after time.

The Sky pundits tried to make a case of the referee (I wont use his name as he’s probably googling to see how many times his name appears on the internet) possibly not being able to see Lindelofs’ foul, if that’s the case, then this is exactly what VAR has been developed for, the referee should be communicating with Stockley Park and they should be advising him of one of three things:-

Nothing happened, carry on.
There’s a clear foul, offside, handball etc, change your decision.
This is “subjective”, you may want to review this, if you’re happy with your decision, stick to it.

What they shouldn’t be doing is deciding an incident is “subjective” and advising the referee that his original decision stands on that basis.  Anti VAR advocates often say that football is a game of opinions and that the “was/wasn’t it” debates in the pub etc. are all part of it.  Well opinions can and do change, your first opinion can very easily be changed by you receiving additional information, i.e. viewing something from a different angle and that is what VAR is intended to do.

The biggest clue to it’s intention is in the title Video ASSISTANT, it’s there to assist, it’s there to be used when needed, it’s there to help make better informed decisions, there’s nothing wrong in saying “I’m not sure, I’ll need to have another look at that”, there’s nothing wrong with saying “that’s a better angle as I can now see something I couldn’t from where I was”, something they were never able to do and we’d all trot out the “they’re only human, they only have a split second to make a decision”, well now they don’t, they have VAR.  I don’t care about the flow of the game, I care that the correct decision is reached, why are Premier League referees so arrogant that they’re the only ones not using pitch side reviews.

Why are Premier League referees so arrogant/sensitive (!) that their decisions have to be supported to such an extent that not one has been overturned so far, if they were that good in the first place (and didn’t have a history of huge game changing decisions being shown to be wrong) we don’t need VAR, but they’re not (and they do).

So please, pretty please with sugar on, use it!!!!!!!!
Howard (it was all a plot to keep Ole at the wheel) Jones


Clearly and obviously b*ll*cks
With nearly 25% of the 2019/2020 Premier League matches having been played, VAR has not on any occasion overruled the on-field referee’s decision. That is just ridiculous to suggest that at no point thus far this season did a referee make a ‘clear and obvious error’.

This absolute perfection of making excellent calls coming from the same referee body that had ZERO representatives at the last World Cup is absolutely laughable.

At what point do rival fans along with the media call a spade, a spade and accept that the standard of referring in the Premier League is pathetic and there is nothing wrong with use of technology in football.
Tapiwa (We missed Salah more than I thought we would) Harare


Rugby have got the idea
Spent the weekend watching the Rugby World Cup quarter finals along with most of the Premier League highlights and the big game yesterday. One code showed exactly how the video technology should be used to inform, clarify and ensure the correct decision was reached after due deliberation and repeated replays. The other code showed how not to communicate anything, to ensure confusion reigned and to ensure that the referee was not embarrassed by being shown to be incorrect in his original decision.

It is not the technology which is at fault here, it is the poor execution and the terrible management of the system by Mike Riley’s match officials which is causing such outrage and disbelief at the seeming incompetence of the people operating the VAR package. Obviously, there will be teething problems with the new system, but after so many errors and controversies, the referees  organization should now be in a position to update their guidance on the use of VAR. Surely the match officials senior management cannot be blind to this mess for much longer.

The blueprint is already there, all they have to do is embrace the change.
Bladey Mick (hoping VAR is not the headline again tonight)


And the NFL

A while ago you published an email where I criticized van Dijk for not finishing a play while Messi waltzed by him to score an easy goal. So to be fair, I want to point out in the 30th minute that he did continue to play on despite being 100% sure that Pereira was offsides. He didn’t quit on the play until he heard the whistle like we teach all kids to do.

And of course I want to comment on the VAR calls in the first half of this Man United v Liverpool match. The ball hit Mane’s hand. Clear and obvious. But wow does Lindelof need to get in the weight room. I know he receives a lot of criticism for his lack of physicality but Mane (who is very strong for his size but still small) treated him like a stuffed toy for toddlers. I’ve seen Mane out-muscle defenders before but never like that to a PL CB.

Now for the trickier call. Lindelof did get Origi. I already mentioned how Lindelof is terribly weak yet Origi drops he’s been hit in the jaw by Connor McGregor, which I think we all hate about the game but this should not (and did) affect the ref’s determination in my opinion. There are 2 issues here.

First, the English FA needs to get more specific with VAR like the NFL is with replays. What can be reviewed? I think this needs to be limited to goals crossing the line, offsides, contact in the penalty area, handballs in the penalty area, and ejection worthy offenses. This way a foul that isn’t even worth a card does not get reviewed. Did the ball cross the line, yes or no? Is it offsides, yes or no? Was there contact in the penalty area, yes or no? Take away the need for interpretation and make it a yes or no question.

Second, I think there needs to be a limit on how far back a missed call can take away a goal. Time shouldn’t be a factor as players shouldn’t be punished for the ability to run faster than other players or moving the ball quickly. I think some definition for “actions” would be better (the NFL calls it “football moves”). So a foul occurs, then the break is started with a long pass to an outlet, the player drives the ball down the pitch, makes a long, low cross, then the striker finishes to score the goal. A lot happened (in a short amount of time) where interventions (including Rashford missing the net completely) could have been made to keep this goal from occurring (which happens more often than actually scoring a goal). In my opinion, too many actions to remove a goal for a weak foul.

I’m interested in the thoughts of others. And I’m thinking a lot of material for 16 conclusions since Man U is actually making a game of it. Wouldn’t surprise me if Mane scores a second half hat trick.


iPhoning it in
Klopp is completely correct. I’ve been thinking the same for a while. Referees are doing what linesmen do (are encouraged to do?) and letting play continue even if they think it is a foul/offside (respectively). The difference is that offside is black and white and VAR is always happy to rule correctly, but it isn’t with “subjective” refereeing calls. Even the bleeding obvious!

With technology I’ve become used to just mashing the keyboard and knowing my iPhone autocorrect will sort it out. My iPad, on the other hand, often just allows my errors, no matter how clear and obvious they are. I am the referee, my iPad is VAR. VAR should be iPhone.

The above is based on us all owning iSomethings to get the analogy. And relying on autocorrect.
Craig (used my iPad for this so please excuse spelling and grammatical errors) Sydney


VAR is protecting refs instead of the game
So, up until this afternoon, after watching what unfolded on Saturday with VAR decisions, I thought I could contribute to a concise and impartial debate on the subject!

But f**k that, what the hell is going on?

Blatant handball by Alli, Zaha physically rugby tackling De Bruyne, Origi being tackled from behind, but oh wait, it wasn’t a clear and obvious error by the ref on the field, and the muppets on VAR don’t want to overrule their mate on the pitch, because it will make them look like a bit of a tit on national telly!

VAR is becoming a laughing stock, and until someone comes out and stands up and says through the headphones “ you know what mate, you f**ked up on that, and you had a mare” and it was a blatant handball, foul or a total f**k up on your part, it is never going to work!

Give me one example when the muppet over-seeing VAR has over turned a decision! It’s a joke, and in my opinion as a football fan, referees should not be overseeing their mates on VAR! It should be independent and impartial!

VAR in its present form just looks after the inept refereeing decisions it was supposedly brought in to eradicate, and gets backed up by inept, and quite frankly, lame decisions by referees claiming it wasn’t a clear and obvious error by their mates!

Do us all a favour and f&(k off!

You are destroying the integrity of our game!
Gronk (LFC)


Forget VAR…what about Atkinson?
This is probably not going too look good coming from a Liverpool fan and not really going to talk about the VAR decisions. I’ll just put in a couple of match facts from BBC

Possession: Man United 32% – 68% Liverpool
Fouls: Man United 6 – 14 Liverpool


seriously remove the VAR decision for the first goal out of your mind but how often were Mane and Origi kicked and tackled from behind only for Atkinson to wave it away compared to the amount of fouls given against Liverpool for similar tackles. I think he only missed one opportunity to give Man United a freekick for a foul from Fabinho and I think it was because Dan James was being ‘street smart’ the first time. It took over 60 minutes for Liverpool to get a foul in Man United’s half, Liverpool were awful but if you are allowed to stop attacks without giving away freekicks then its pretty easy to defend against teams.

Atkinson was appalling, no wonder he was Solksjaer’s man of the match.
Tyla (loudest cheer in the pub I watched it in was the goal, second loudest was Fabinho getting a freekick from Rojo) Roxburgh, Liverpool


More moans
Firstly, this feels like a Champ Manager match where the AI just won’t let you win.

But seriously, how can VAR allow one goal and not the other?  Either it can ignore ticky tack fouls and infringements or it can call all of them?  I can understand it ruling out the Mane goal as it’s exactly like the City-Tottenham one, but to then ignore a kick in the back of the leg that was considerably more impactful that either handball.

The worst part is, this isn’t inherent to the technology it’s just the FA deciding on a terrible set of rules and then refusing to back down.
Dan, Plastic LFC


After the game yesterday Jurgen Klopp raised a very important point about VAR which concerned the foul on Origi before the Man Utd goal. The implementation of VAR seems to have been done so as not to undermine the referee or at the very least to still consider their opinion and not take the decision completely out of their hands. However, this is clearly flawed. It’s possible yesterday that Atkinson let play go on as VAR would sort it out if it led to anything, which it did. But then when VAR goes back to look at the incident because Atkinson didn’t call it as a foul initially they stick with that decision. So it would have had to be a scything, horrific challenge for them to reverse his initial decision, but if that was the case he’d have almost certainly called the foul anyway. So what’s the point of VAR?

The obvious change here is to remove this “clear and obvious error” nonsense from some situations. Just let the VAR decide if he thinks it was a foul. Pretty much everyone bar Ole thinks it was a foul so just let VAR decide. My suspicion is VAR thought it was a foul but that’s not enough under the rules, it also has to be such a clear and obvious foul that the ref has made a glaring mistake. But football doesn’t work that way, much of it is subjective. They’ve removed the bar for “clear and obvious” in offside situations so why not for fouls? I’ve got no issue with more goals being scored because of VAR but it seems that yesterday one was scored when previously play would have been stopped.

Overall I’m a fan of VAR, I’ve got no complaint about Mane’s goal being ruled out. But what is clear and obvious here is the flaw in the system.
Jim, Norwich


I think var has been around long enough for most teams to have decisions both in their favour and against them. I think the majority of people would agree it’s sh*t. It was supposed to come in and help the game, all it has done is make it worse.

I could go in to paragraph after paragraph saying why it is so bad but I would only be repeating what has been said in the mailbox previously. In its current format it’s a joke and it either needs to change or be f***ed off full stop.

Either leave the decision with the on field ref and make him look at the monitor or have the balls to tell him he’s made a mistake.
Ryan, Liverpool


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