VAR, brought in to limit controversy around decisions in football, seems to have done anything but that. Introduced to the league with the aim of decreasing the number of incorrect decisions and reducing arguments focused on wrong decisions, Video Assistant Referee seems only to have increased controversy, to the extent that rising numbers of people want it gone already.

VAR seems like the obvious choice. It involves a team of other officials helping the on-field referee, so he doesn’t make a rash, wrong decision. It’s fair. Equal for all. No controversy. No debate. But is it? Think about your team scoring a last-minute winner in the local derby. Ecstasy, as you and your family celebrate; memories to last a lifetime. Should they be snatched from your grasp because the striker’s metatarsal was half an inch in front of the opposition centre-half’s left patella?

Originally VAR was simply designed to check clear and obvious errors made by matchday officials on aspects such as goals, penalties, mistaken identity, and straight red cards. The first problem is that instead of just checking obvious mistakes made by the officials, it appears to be checking everything. Every goal now is being checked, detracting from that moment of ecstatic jubilation when your team scores. Instead of boundless joy, you apprehensively turn to the big screen, praying for a goal to be given; waiting for what seems like an eternity as the elation of the goal itself is fading away.

Secondly, VAR, meant to favour the attacker and increase the number of goals, has not delivered on that front either. In the 2018/19 season, the ball hit the back of the net 1072 times, and the tally for last season ended up at 1034 goals, instead of giving goals it seems to be chalking them off. With VAR ruling out double what it awarded, is this the way we want to carry on?

But is VAR the real problem or is it the scapegoat for other bad aspects of the game? Should some rules be changed? The offside rule, for one, has the smallest of margins. Finger-nail differences dictate huge factors in a club’s history, in a person’s life. Should the offside rule be changed? Should there have to be daylight between the attacker and defender? Some would argue, however, that rules are rules and they have to draw the line somewhere, and the players know the rules, they know that they have to stay in line with the last defender before the ball is played, but should the joy of someone scoring the winner in a must win game in the Europa League group stage or scoring their first ever Premier League goal be taken away? As we saw earlier in the season, with Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick equaliser at Tottenham, his first ever Premier League goal being ruled out due to a team-mate being a millimetre offside in the early build up to the goal. It is not even an objective decision, like many may assume with the graphics and software on hand today. Jordan Henderson thought he got the  winner in the last minute of the Merseyside Derby earlier this season is yet another example of a ludicrous judgement made by the official where winger, Sadio Mane, the player who assisted the Liverpool Skipper for what he though was the winner, was deemed ofside in the build up by the very smallest of margins, less than a millimetre prevented them front gaining a famous derby win.

Former Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger recently proposed a change to the rule, only declaring offsides when the whole of the attackers’ body is past the threshold. This modification to the offside rule would see a rise in the number of goals and VAR could be used to effectively police this. For example, Brighton defender, Dan Burn’s right-footed strike against Bournemouth is just one of many goals overturned by VAR for offside this season, which Wenger’s proposition to the rule would prevent.

Other amendments to the use of VAR could be introduced such as a limit to the number of replays allowed at Stockley Park or a time limit to make a decision, for example, 30 seconds which would mean that fans, players and coaching staff are spared the current lengthy wait for the decision to be made. VAR decisions have taken as long as 5 minutes this season and last, during that time everyone in the stadium is waiting not knowing what’s going on. Whilst players’ muscles are seizing up, becoming stiff, and increasing risk of injury whilst referees are drawing lines over a football pitch on a computer in a backroom somewhere. Is this football? Is this really what we want? However, with the proposed time limit, it could mean that officials are rushed into making hasty, wrong decisions.

Another way of trying to reduce time between the goal being scored and being confirmed is completely cutting out the video replay part of the process meaning an incident is only checked if the official at Stockley Park has seen something clear and obvious in real time that the referee has not spotted, and only when the incident is clear and obvious will the VAR official contact the referee, asking him to check the pitch-side monitor. This could cut down on stoppages in the match meaning that the game would be allowed to flow. This would also mean that, when a goal is scored, there need be no hesitation before celebrating because the goal would only be checked when someone at Stockley Park has spotted a major incident leading up to the goal.

This brings to mind another issue. Is the problem VAR itself or the way it is used? The 2018 Russia World Cup was the technology’s first major outing and it shone, with referees running over to the pitch side monitor before making his decision. This meant that the designated match referee was the one making the decisions, not a bunch of other people in a room hundreds of miles away. However, as of mid-January this year, after 220 Premier League games, the pitch-side monitor was yet to be utilised by the match referee. They have instead relied on the VAR officials to make decisions.

Further dilemmas have transpired in the FA cup in which VAR has been used only in games where the stadium can provide the equipment begging the question, should this disputed new technology be used at all if it can only be used in select stadiums?

To return to my opening point, the joy of going to the football is that when your team scores, you celebrate: it is those thrilling few seconds where nothing else in the world matters. Do we want football to be rigid and fair, or do we want it to be spontaneous and emotional? What decision should be made about VAR? Should it be kept in our game? My view? Football should return to a spontaneous form in which Video Assistant Referee can play a role with major modifications.