VAR is a runaway rhino - this PGMOL audio proves it needs to be tranquilised
The governing body has released the audio from the VAR travesty involving Liverpool and Spurs earlier this month
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This might be a death knell, the kind of clandestine howler unintended for public consumption that can bring down entire careers and force the hand of reluctant change. If it were a Panorama sting operation it would almost certainly be followed by a hastily-written statement of apology and a bushel of resignation letters. We have already had one of those things, who knows if we will get the other.
In the end, of course, there was no need for secret cameras or microphones hidden in click top pens. Instead, the PGMOL, under an elephantine heft of outcry, shamefully volunteered the private audio from the omnishambles that led to Liverpool wrongfully having a goal chalked off during their 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening.
By now, you will have seen the incident innumerable times - on television screens, on social media timelines, on the inside of your eyelids as you lie in bed at night fruitlessly pursuing sleep and wondering how it is that a species gifted with the power of the spoken word can miscommunicate so, so calamitously.
For the purposes of clarity, however, all we really need to establish is that Luis Diaz was absolutely, irrefutably, unequivocally onside. Spurs defender Cristian Romero dangled a tempting ankle, but, like a committee of god-fearing Victorian men, both the matchday officials and their VAR panel chose to ignore it. The flag went up, the error wriggled its way through the cracks of bureaucratic hubris, and the effort was disallowed. Cue chaos, confusion, scandal.
And no matter how bad you were expecting the PGMOL’s recording to be, it is somehow worse. Maybe it’s because of the nauseating dash of dramatic irony, the retrospective knowledge that this is a group of people confidently hurtling towards their doom. Maybe it’s because the proper solution is so blindingly obvious and yet there is nothing that we as innocent bystanders can do to redirect this monstrosity. It’s like screaming at your television set as somebody gets the first question wrong on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’. Maybe it’s because the whole sorry affair really hammers home the hopelessness of VAR implementation as a concept. This thing, this well-meaning saboteur, feels further away from plausible functionality than it ever has before.
It is a square-eyed Gordian Knot in a little Bluetooth headset, and were it not so infuriating, it might be considered comedy gold. Oscar Wilde himself could not have scribbled a witticism as deliciously farcical as ‘Well done boys, good process’, or crafted a punchline as devastatingly epiphanic as that solitary, despondent expletive.
But more than anything, what really looms is the manner in which common sense is blinded by a devotion to the rigidity of process, in which pragmatism is hog-tied by red tape. In amongst the din of the PGMOL’s audio there is but one voice, that of the Replay Operator, calling for logic to prevail and for the game to be stopped, even after it has been mistakenly restarted. But by that stage, it was apparently too late to make amends. Why? Because some subsection of a paragraph in an FA PowerPoint presentation said so.
Video technology, for all of its flaws, still has the potential to be a useful tool in officiating the modern game. But at this present moment in time, VAR is an escaped rhinoceros charging down an alleyway - dumb, panicked, and hugely detrimental to its surroundings. If the PGMOL’s audio proves anything, it’s that we need to find a way of peppering it with tranquilizer darts before VAR ‘light’ takes over the rest of the Football League.