It’s a joke we may have made before, but it seems like football fans are talking about little else but the ‘video assistant referee’ these days, with an upsurge following a slew of controversial decisions at the weekend.
VAR certainly did sound like a good idea at first. Being only human, referees can make mistakes and their view of events is necessarily confined to one angle. Video replays promised to change all that, enabling them to get it right virtually every single time, after watching slow-motion footage from an array of different viewpoints.
Former Scotland striker-turned-pundit Ally McCoist was initially a VAR exponent, but has now changed his opinion after becoming exasperated by the way the current system is working. “... I thought it would be a great thing. I thought anything that rights a wrong must be a good thing, but I've changed my mind. It's driving me crazy. It wouldn't disappoint me if we didn't see it again,” he said, while adding he still backed goal-line technology to check whether the ball had gone in or not.
Perhaps what is needed is a better VAR system. But if Scotland is indeed to ditch it entirely and rely on fallible human decision-making, perhaps we should copy American football, which uses seven or eight officials. The game could, of course, return to the ‘good old days’ of one referee and two assistants, unaided by technology. But if fans really do want that to happen, in full knowledge that mistakes will be made, then surely they must also agree to give refs a bit of slack… Don’t mention the ref?