Association football as we know it descended into farce at the hands of the use of fledgling video assistant referee (VAR) technology throughout Tottenham and Rochdale’s FA Cup replay tie at Wembley.
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Referee Paul Tierney harnessed VAR to achieve panto-villain status as confusion reigned in the stands. Raw emotions were frequently amended and erased during the course of a first half where “goals” and “free kicks” – via minute-long consultations with the technology – weren’t always what they first seemed. Like a child with a new toy at Christmas, Tierney couldn’t put VAR down.
A quick look at the punters, braving Baltic conditions to support their teams on a Wednesday night only to not have a clue what was going on in front of them, provided scenes evocative of stranded families in airport departure lounges you’d see during some ash cloud situation on the news, hopelessly checking screens for their gate numbers after living off vending machine M&Ms and Hula Hoops for 18 hours.
It’s caused fans to deride the system as a plague on the game, but we don’t think that’s fair. There’s nothing wrong with VAR itself when used sparingly, which just means no more refs acting like Derek Acorah hosting a séance in the National Football Museum.