Gary Neville insists VAR must change, and believes English football thought it could “do it better” than others.
Only one in 25 football fans think VAR has ‘worked very well’ in the Premier League, according to an exclusive study. Sponsored link
The results, part of a YouGov survey with 1,419 adults across Great Britain who watch matches regularly, revealed just four per cent of fans believe VAR has worked ‘very well’ and one in four thinks the technology has ‘worked well’.
Neville reveals he had concerns in the summer about the way English football was planning to use VAR, and insists referees should start by going to the pitchside monitor more, which should in-turn improve the fan experience.
“This idea that VAR is ruining football? It’s not. What’s happening is that VAR is experiencing some turbulence. When I went to Stockley Park earlier in the year, I had some concerns that we thought we could ‘do it better’ than countries and tournaments that have been doing it for years.
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“It’s been experimented, used and tested, and we thought we could do it better by not allowing the referee to go over to the monitor, because he’s ’emotional’. We want emotion, we want the referee in the stadium to make the final decision.
“[They] want the Stockley Park officials removed from what would be the ‘smell of the fixture’, and I understand that, and for offsides that is fine, but not for decisions that relate to a red card, or big penalty decisions, it should be made by the on-field referee.
“I’ve watched Champions League games this season where the manager has walked over to the pitchside screen, the fans know what’s going on and they’re not left in the dark.
When I went to Stockley Park earlier in the year, I had some concerns that we thought we could ‘do it better’ than countries and tournaments that have been doing it for years. It’s been experimented, used and tested, and we thought we could do it better.
Gary Neville on VAR
“For me, if the referee is going over to check the decision, fans will feel like they’re being brought on the journey and process. Hearing what referee and Stockley Park officials are saying in the stadium is also bringing the fan into the experience. At the moment it is too detached.
“I can see why they did it, but I had a problem with it when I first visited Stockley Park back in the summer, and I felt they would have to change towards the European model of referees going over to the monitor. It’s far better.”
Criticism of offside ‘bizarre’
Neville does feel that the criticism of the use of offside by VAR is bizarre, and believes suggestions to alter the line for offside will not change anything.
“I might be living in a parallel universe where, for the last five years, I’ve heard managers complain that when an opposition player is slightly offside, and it hasn’t been given as offside. Now it’s going against them for inches the other way, and it’s being proven by technology, and there is all of a sudden a furore over it. I don’t get it at all.
“I don’t understand the issue with offside. There has to be a point from which an offside is measured, every single time. The line comes down, and you’re either on or off. People ask: ‘How can you be so accurate?’ When the same methodology and principle is being used each time, you have consistency.
“All referees have been asked to do is give consistency. We’ve got the most consistent application of offside that we’ve ever had before, and people are complaining. I see experts, pundits, fans shouting about it. I don’t get it. I find it bizarre.”
VAR a success… but only to an extent
So, has VAR been a success? In terms of improving accuracy, Neville firmly believes it has, but fan experience is just as big an issue, and must be improved.
“VAR has been a success in respect to the accuracy of decisions, particularly with offsides and penalties. My feeling, however, is that they need to think more about the fan experience in the ground. Accuracy is up, and VAR is a positive, but the use of it needs to change.
“It has to change. One of the big things I had a problem with early in the season with VAR was that the bar was set too high against overturning decisions.
“I think it will take time. It’s education of the fans, a bit like when the back-pass rule came in. When that came it felt foreign, it was like ‘wow!’ And this is the biggest change in football in terms of rules for a long time, and it’s going to take education for it to be introduced. I think eventually we’ll get it right, and it’s not time to back out of it. Technology is being used in all walks of life, but ultimately we need to make sure we don’t ruin the game with it.”