fbpx

Football has invested considerably in VAR and fans had better get used to it

Rarely a weekend of football goes by these days without a monumental kerfuffle around everyone’s favourite technological official VAR.

The weekend just passed saw Liverpool FC the beneficiary against Manchester City, when a supposedly qualified and experienced referee waved play on despite the ball appearing to strike the Red’s Trent Alexander-Arnold’s arm whilst defending in his own area.

The mysterious individuals in control of the VAR system reviewed the incident. They confirmed the on-field officials’ version of events and before City fans could hit the keyboard to let rip at the most hated aspect of modern football, Liverpool had scored at the other end.

If it wasn’t so serious, it would be comical.

Was it an important decision? Of course it was. Did it alter the outcome of the match? Who knows? What is certain is the fact that governing bodies appear to be backing the technology and their investment in it, at the expense of the integrity of the game.

The official explanation from Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) read as follows.

“The VAR checked the penalty appeal for handball against Trent Alexander-Arnold and confirmed the on-field decision that it did not meet the considerations for a deliberate handball.”  

Whilst it is always comforting for fans to receive open and transparent responses from the powers at be, this particular example borders on the absurd. Alexander-Arnold’s arm is in the most unusual of positions. In fact, try walking down the street with your arm held out in the manner in which his was and you will receive some very odd looks.

The PGMOL may wish to placate disgruntled fans with a united front that aims to quell discussion, however only the gullible will be falling for their lip service. The unnerving reality remains that the events that played out soon after kick off at Anfield on Sunday afternoon would have led to a penalty on every other day.

On this occasion, a blunder was made. Another referee, at another ground, in another country and in another league, may well have awarded the spot kick. Just a fortnight ago, Louis Fenton of the Wellington Phoenix was adjudged to have hand balled in the area and the referee pointed directly to the penalty spot.

Wellington play in the A-League, Australia’s top tier of professional football. Fenton appeased his team mates immediately, suggesting that once the footage was viewed by VAR, the decision would be reversed, as the ball had made clear contact with his chest before glancing the arm.

Whilst the footage supported Fenton’s version of events, once again, the decision stood and the player proceeded to use some rather blue and poorly chosen words in his post-game interview.

The facial expressions of those sitting on the Phoenix bench said it all, as did Pep Guardiola’s rather comical hand shaking of the officials at the completion of Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over the English champions.

Both reactions lie at the core of the issue when it comes to VAR; the perception that it is a farce and has the potential to harm football from within.

Contentious handball decisions have always brought much debate and conjecture in the game. Yet the inconsistent application of the rules that exists when the extra layer of officialdom is called upon does nothing more than breed distrust in the fans and potential illegitimacy in results.

When the Hawkeye technology currently being used in the Premier League to rule on-offside play is added to the mix, it is little wonder fans are roaring their anger from the rooftops.

It is not just the furious, one eyed supporter calling for change, despite many feeling as though their club has indeed felt the wrath of VAR. Respected players, commentators and pundits right across the globe have had enough of the trivialities of off-sides being awarded based on what appear to be the most minute of margins.

They have grown tired of incidents being reviewed for sometimes up to three or four minutes before a decision is confirmed and, like all of us, are completely bamboozled by many of the adjudications made.

Whilst it is easy for the official post-game statement to be drafted in such a way as to artificially confirm the decisions made by on-field officials, the footballing world sees well through that façade.

What chance a governing body concedes a little ground, admits to an over reliance on technology and shows the courage to downsize its role in the game? Very little I would say and that could be a dangerous path to tread.

Stuart Thomas is a trusted Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on macro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions.

Macarthur FC links up with Southern Tablelands FA

A-League newcomers Macarthur FC have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Southern Tablelands Football Association (STFA).

The MOU will see STFA join the three other existing football associations in the region, who have already partnered with the 12th A-League club.

Macarthur Football Association, Southern Districts Football Association and Bankstown Amateur Football Association are the other bodies already in a partnership with the Bulls.

The newly signed agreement will boost grassroots football in the Southern Tablelands with over 100 clubs and up to 30,000 players and officials to be engaged by the new A-League club’s community programs.

Macarthur FC Chairman, Gino Marra, outlined the importance of the new club expanding its community footprint.

“This MOU is an important step for the future growth of the game in our region. We know collaboration, consultation and engagement are the key components to develop and inspire the next generation of players. We are thrilled to welcome Southern Tablelands Football Association to the Bulls family.

“The largest growth area of football, not only in our community, but across the country, is female participation. It is imperative for us, as a club, to develop further programs that enhance female participation across all areas in the game, especially in the lead up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023,” Marra concluded.

Director of Southern Tablelands Football Association, Craig Norris, was delighted with the prospect of partnering with Macarthur FC.

“I’m excited that our association will be part of the Macarthur FC journey. For our players, coaches, and admin staff to identify with a national club is a huge boost. Having a local A-League club like Macarthur FC, shining a light on grassroots football with our association will provide our members the feeling of being part of something massive.”

AGL extends partnership with Melbourne Victory

AGL has announced it has renewed its partnership with four-time A-League champions Melbourne Victory for another two years.

AGL General Manager Customer Channels Jane Morwick said AGL was proud to be Melbourne Victory’s
Major Partner, extending a relationship that dates back to 2014.

“We had no hesitation in reaffirming our support for the Melbourne Victory, particularly given the success
of the partnership,” Morwick said.

“We are also pleased to be able to continue to support the club during what we know has been a
challenging year, given the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As part of a new two-year deal, AGL will remain the naming rights partner of the club’s Victory in Business
networking functions as well as the Chairman’s Function on match-days.

“Our partnership with Australia’s biggest A-League club has been highly successful and we look forward to
continuing our support of its network and its most passionate fan base,” Morwick said.

“Victory members will also continue to enjoy the benefits of this relationship through special energy offers
for partners.”

Melbourne Victory CEO Trent Jacobs added that the club was thrilled to continue its relationship with AGL.

“To recommit to the club in the current environment speaks volumes of the leadership at AGL, and behalf
of the entire football club we thank CEO Brett Redman and his staff for their ongoing loyalty and support,”
Jacobs said.

“AGL has been a wonderful supporter of our strategic vision, both on and off the pitch, and have also
provided our members and fans with genuine value through their products and services.”

3G pitches to help clubs in a post-COVID world

As football clubs around the world deal with the COVID-19 health crisis, the future use of more artificial pitches could help organisations navigate around these financially distressing times.

That is at least the view of former FA technical director Dan Ashworth, stating that the FIFA-approved football turf provides opportunities for clubs to host various events and pursue the development of their own academies.

In the UK, Maidstone United were the first ever English club to build a brand-new stadium using the highest quality 3G artificial surface.

That was in 2012, and since then, other notable clubs in the non-league divisions including Sutton United, Harrogate Town and Bromley have all made the move (in the National League) and installed 3G pitches.

The English Football League have considered allowing 3G fields in League 1 and 2, however, a vote in 2014 on the matter was tied.

This means that any club playing on an artificial pitch has to remove the surface if they want to be promoted into the EFL, even though 3G fields are allowed for the Women’s World Cup, Champions League and many other professional leagues in Europe.

Similar articles:

Heidelberg United: Modernising youth development with SoccerPLAY

The Bundesliga continues to build its reputation as football’s innovation benchmark

Joint-owner of Maidstone United Oliver Ash believes Dan Ashwoth is right in saying 3G pitches should be a prominent option for EFL clubs impacted financially by COVID-19.

He told fcbusiness: “With this terrible Covid-19 crisis affecting so many people and damaging so many football clubs, which are vital to their communities, we have to think outside the box if we are to avoid financial meltdown.

“Going forward it will all be about sustainability. Clubs will have to find ways of making their businesses sustainable in the interests of their supporters and their actual survival. One obvious way of achieving this is by installing a 3G pitch.

“We have now had five years’ experience of 3G pitches in the National League. We have seen supporters and players embrace the change in playing surface; we have seen that the highest quality 3G pitches encourage good football but also allow physical players to get stuck in; we have seen no particular injury problems, a welcome absence of postponements, and local people coming in their droves to watch and play football at our clubs seven days a week. It’s been life-changing in a totally positive way.”

Ash estimates that those clubs who decide to use 3G fields can generate a further £400,000 worth of income a year. This is the case because of direct pitch-hire revenue as well as indirect earnings from supporters coming into the club. Savings are also made on maintenance and postponements.

Using his own club as an example, Ash explained Maidstone United have registered a profit every season since the pitch was installed eight years ago.

“We know and respect the fact that some people still prefer to play on natural surfaces, even down in League 2, where pitch quality is inconsistent,” he said.

“However, the benefits of 3G pitches are so massive and the problems facing football so huge, it would be irrational not to give League 2 clubs the option to install them without delay and take advantage of the opportunity to transform their clubs into sustainable businesses capable of surviving this crisis and thriving thereafter,” he concluded.

Maidstone United, Sutton United, Bromley and Harrogate Town are the leaders in advocating for change in the EFL.

With leading experts in the game looking to restructure football in some capacity, what is generally the norm may be no more.

One day in the near future, these clubs could have access to the EFL without having to give up their 3G pitches.

On a local front, are 3G pitches a suitable idea for NPL and A-League clubs? Get in touch with us via email or our social channels.

© 2020 Soccerscene Industry News. All Rights reserved.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks