A terrace refrain knocking about in one guise or another since the days of the football special.
Officials make mistakes, everyone of us makes those, but to limit them on the football field, we have VAR. The introduction of technology as a back-up to erase in-the-moment human error, yet we get decisions like that made on Saturday at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Shortly after full-time PGMOL issued a statement: “A significant human error occurred,” it said. “A clear and obvious factual error… PGMOL will conduct a full review into the circumstances which led to the error.”
VAR officials are a team, why didn’t one of them spot the error and overrule the decision? Where is the consistency? Where were the lines – the lines we see ‘drawn’ with every debatable goal? Where was the communication? VAR thought the goal had been given on the pitch so for them, ‘check complete’ affirmed it. But it was the opposite and the referee assumed his original decision of no goal was correct.
VAR and the PGMOL are blatantly not fit for purpose.
There’s to be an investigation but to what end? This isn’t about individuals, it’s about the process. And it is not the first time an apology has been given this season – Wolves non-penalty at Manchester United – a season not yet two months old. Any trust in the process has gone.
So where do we go from here? The practice of VAR has to be clear, protocols set – for offside, cards, time wasting, images and replays standardised so that those involved know what needs to be done. A semi-automated offside system is required, as used in the Champions League and at the last World Cup but vetoed by Premier League clubs at the start of the season, to remove ‘human error’ so subjective decisions are overruled. Because such decisions can have huge consequences.
PGMOL should not be able to police themselves, an independent group needs to be set up and the audio from yesterday released to stop accusations of corrupt officials that will otherwise continue to grow. The VAR officials involved at Tottenham had worked at a game in the UAE, with other Premier League referees, on Thursday. Who approved and paid for these trips? Was their judgement skewed because of fatigue after travelling?
Supporters, who’ve forked out a lot of money to watch their team, are expected to suck it up, accept incompetence and move on. But this isn’t just about what happened on Saturday, it’s about the integrity of the game. We’ve been promised a ‘review’ but it’s change we need.
Fans of all clubs must unite, put tribalism aside because blinkered views will lead us nowhere, and lobby to bring about that change. Now.