The world moves far too fast. Technically, it’s only spinning at around 1000 miles per…
There might be controversy surrounding Russia hosting the World Cup, but the competition itself has, once again, been truly captivating. Of course, we here at the TheTwoPointOne are counting down the days until the domestic leagues start up again, but the World Cup has been a welcome distraction. Some of the biggest stars in world football are in Russia, but the MVP of the competition so far is undoubtedly VAR.
It feels like VAR has influenced every game thus far. Rather than Ronaldo standing over a free-kick or Harry Kane scoring another penalty, the lasting image of Russia 2018 to this point is the referee standing watching a TV. It’s been fascinating to see this in action and more importantly how it has changed games.
Never before have set pieces felt so significant. Nearly half of the goals in this World Cup have come from set pieces and there’s certainly a case to say that VAR has had a massive hand in that. Unless you are Panama, defender’s are arguably more scared to get overly physical in the box knowing that VAR could retrospectively punish them. Teams that have continued to be careless in the area have simply been punished. At the time of writing this, there have been 19 penalties awarded in Russia. And nine, yes nine, of them were awarded as a consequence of VAR – it truly is the World Cup of penalties.
Referees have also been affected. It appears they are perhaps more conservative and are not as quick to blow the whistle at times. This is due to the fact they know they have the safety net of VAR to rely on. However, with the game getting faster surely all of this is a good thing. Moreover, it doesn’t feel like VAR has slowed the game down or completely zapped momentum. Conversely, it seems relatively quick, painless and efficient.
This all might just be a bedding in period. The bottom line is that there are bound to be noticeable changes when such a huge change is made. Defenders may be feeling out how much they can get away with at set pieces before they are the victims of VAR. Similarly, we could continue to see defences be more zonal at set pieces rather than using overly physical man-marking. Simply put, there will be a bedding in period.
The main gripe with VAR in its current form is that it does seem a bit messy. Granted it’s only in its infancy in football, but going forward there surely needs to be a more uniformed way to tell when VAR can and will be called upon. Now, it couldn’t like be Hawkeye in tennis where you get three challenges – can you imagine the outcry when manager’s start using these tactically? Although some sort of system does need to be put in place. Especially when we’ve seen that there are still numerous occasions where VAR should’ve been used to clear up decisions but wasn’t called upon.
So what about in Scotland? The principal of having it is a good idea. It means decisions are more likely to be fair and referees are given more support, which can only be a good thing. However, one of the main problems surrounding the implementation of VAR in Scotland is cost. A good chunk of the clubs would struggle to afford it. You then you have to wonder whether we are just creating a bigger gap between the top and bottom teams.
Of course, it’s perhaps not important for teams who are semi-professional to have it but then how does that work? Some games will have the benefit of VAR and others won’t? That’s not an ideal scenario. The majority of clubs in Scotland don’t have the money lying around to splash on cameras, the latest technology and extra referees. Were the cost to be absorbed by our governing body or the likes of FIFA or UEFA then it might a different story. However, given that the SPFL came out last season and said goal-line technology was unaffordable it’s unlikely this would happen.
We all remember the rule where clubs wanting to play in the Premiership had to have a 10,000 seater stadium. It was unnecessary and the only losers at the end of the day were the smaller clubs. VAR might be a similar story were it to be implemented in such a way.
The other way to view this is that VAR may take away some of Scottish football’s charm. Now, this is a rather ‘yer da’ point to make, but the controversy surrounding bad decisions such as sending off and penalties seems like such a significant part of our game. That may sound ridiculous, but can you imagine a mainstream press or broadcast media discussing our game without these controversies?
Press conferences would change, football phone-ins would change, in fact, the very way we discuss football would change. That said, perhaps this is a good thing. We move on from focusing on a red card from five days ago to actually talking about our game up here. Our teams, young players and everything that makes Scottish football great. If VAR was to cut through the tripe then perhaps it’s implementation in Scottish football would transform the coverage surrounding it. And that is surely beneficial to our game as a whole.