Is VAR modern football’s most clear and obvious error? – The Guardian

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Sky Sports News did their usual Monday morning thing today, summoning former ref Dermot Gallagher to forensically examine the more contentious refereeing decisions from the weekend’s Premier League action in the company of a couple of former pros, who’ve probably seen them given, Clive. They had no shortage of material to work with, what with the curtain-twitchers in the Stockley Park VAR bunker having spent the weekend conveying the impression somebody had spiked the tea urn with a couple of bottles of hooch and a few handfuls of mind-altering mushrooms, all the better to help them keep the football-watching public entertained, outraged or amused, depending on their affiliations.
Watching Gallagher and chums bang various referees and their VARs to rights, The Fiver couldn’t help but yearn for the days when everything was simpler. Halcyon days when players were offside if the flag went up and onside if it didn’t. Assistant referees didn’t always get things right, because being an assistant referee is extremely difficult. But at least it didn’t take them almost five minutes to reach a decision.
Nowadays, advances in technology mean we get to wait that long for a collection of jobsworths to fiddle around with their set squares and rulers, desperately trying to find some – nay, any! – way they can to ignore the spirit of the law and find some barely discernible technicality to chalk off the kind of sweet strike most players will never score in a lifetime.
Originally brought in to clear up clear and obvious errors, the irony of VAR’s introduction being a clear and obvious error has been lost on very few. But the fact of the matter is that there was a widespread clamour for its introduction from the no end of footballers, managers, journalists, broadcasters and football fans who either couldn’t foresee or chose to ignore the obvious problems it would bring and now spend an unhealthy amount of their time moaning about how terrible it is. Like Brexiteers moaning about those ludicrously long queues at passport control, these people don’t seem to realise that the officiating mess in which football finds itself is exactly what they spent years campaigning for.
“But it’s not VAR, it’s the idiots tasked with implementing it who are the problem,” The Fiver hears you cry with some justification. Some but not much, because apart from offside calls and goal-line technology, most of the decisions VAR is called upon to decide are subjective and therefore open to different interpretations from different people … in exactly the same way they were before its introduction. The upshot? Rather than clarifying matters, VAR has just provided fans who take these things far too seriously a new layer of officialdom at which to vent their spittle-flecked fury. On and on the cycle goes, while down at grassroots level, the game is suffering a genuinely crippling shortage of referees, a problem that will eventually cause problems at the apex of the pyramid.
Of course by bringing Dermot into the studio to put all the weekend’s controversies under a microscope, Sky Sports is only inflaming the situation, much like all the other TV and radio shows further stirring the pot and winding up already incensed fans by zeroing in on errors. You can’t blame them, as it makes for better viewing and is way easier than analysing the countless in-match mistakes made by managers and players. Meanwhile on the phone-ins, the ranters and ravers will continue to get their radge on, screaming the odds as they pour more petrol on the flames.
“He protected himself. He was inside the hedge. Sometimes when you have to go you have to go. I was gobsmacked. We’re all pretty shocked by the decision” – Blackfield & Langley co-manager Conor McCarthy clearly thinks the referee was taking the pi[snip – Fiver Obvious Gags Ed] by sending off goalkeeper Connor Maseko for relieving himself in a nearby bush during the FA Cup qualifying draw with Shepton Mallet.
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“All this fuss about Jedis joining Premier League big boys on deadline day and everyone forgets Fulham have had one this whole time. Not that they’ve tried to Force that down anyone’s throat” – Harriet Osborn.
“Why are Tottenham Hotspur abbreviated to Spurs in your Premier League table? If you are going to abbreviate teams please start with the league leaders” – Michael Robson (and no other infantile readers).
“I’m intrigued by the Fiver’s reference to The Rumour Mill as its half-brother. [Friday’s Fiver] So many family questions come to mind. Do the two share a genetic relationship with Weird Uncle Fiver? Is Granny Fiver their common matriarch? And, perhaps most importantly, who’s your daddy? Perhaps the pedants can weigh in” – Mike Wilner.
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Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Jorge Harriague (because even The Fiver needs a little love sometimes).
Oldham striker Hallam Hope suffered “serious injuries” and required hospital treatment after being assaulted in the club car park after their 2-0 National League loss to Chesterfield.
Brendan Rodgers is all for Leicester’s players tearing strips off each other, as they did throughout the shambolic 5-2 thrashing at Brighton. “I’m happy when that happens because they’ve got to tell each other,” Rodgers chuckled. “You can’t hide behind a rock and pretend it’s not happening.”
Look out! Diego Costa is almost back in the Premier League with Wolves, baby.
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Reece James has inked his name all over a new six-year deal with Chelsea. “I am over the moon,” he chirped. “I cannot wait to see what the future holds.”
After six losses and one draw in their opening seven matches, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has seen himself through the door marked Do One at League One’s bottom club Burton Albion. “I have taken the club as far as I can with the limited resources available,” he blabbed.

The EFL is “incredibly frustrated” after goalline technology seemingly packed up and missed a Huddersfield equaliser in their loss to Blackpool.
And Arsenal will bounce back from losing to Manchester United, according to Gabriel Jesus. “Now is the time to learn from it and improve,” he soothed. “Everyone is together and we stick together until the end.”
Our WSL season previews continue apace. Today: No 3 Brighton and No 4 Chelsea.
Ten talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action, right here.
Jorge Mendes had a good transfer window – like he always does, writes Ed Aarons.
Spivs and charlatans: the murky tale of Luis Figo’s transfer to Real Madrid. By Barry Glendenning.
Erik ten Hag is bringing back the feelgood factor to Manchester United, reckons Jamie Jackson while Barney Ronay was taken by Antony’s cinematic qualities at Old Trafford.
Fun, glamour and chaos: how Gazzetta Football Italia won our hearts. By AC JimboJonathan Grade.
Freiburg are riding high in the Bundesliga, reports Andy Brassell.
Rafael Leão was surfing the crest of a wave in Milan’s derby win over Inter, writes Nicky Bandini.
Sevilla probably aren’t looking forward to facing Manchester City and Erling Haaland in Big Cup after finding “a thousand ways to lose” 3-0 against Barcelona, notes Sid Lowe.
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