One moment in time

Is VAR messing with destiny?

As a lifelong supporter of Queens Park Rangers, it is second nature to revel when local rivals, Chelsea, are on the wrong end of a result. So yesterday’s Cup Final result should have been a time of great joy for me. But the decision by VAR (the Video Assistant Referee) to rule out Chelsea’s equaliser as offside was, frankly, absurd.

Yes, the freeze-frame shows the relevant Chelsea player to have his knee in an offside position. But was that the right freeze-frame? The ball was already off the ground. If we wind the clock back to the moment when the ball was still grounded, who can say that the Chelsea knee would not have been OK?

The late Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, famously said that football is not “a matter of life and death … it’s more important than that.” Of course, his tongue was in his cheek when he said it (quite possibly in an offside position). Football was not yet the multi-billion pound industry that it has become. It was merely an obsession.

If those who run the game today want technology to assist in fractional decision-making, they need to use the technology correctly. With a video recording at 50 frames per second, it may not be possible to freeze the picture at exactly the right instant. If technology can’t select the perfect moment, football needs to include a margin for error in the judgement.

One of the mantras for VAR is that decisions should be made by the officials on the pitch, except in cases of clear and obvious error. Offside is treated as an exception in the mistaken belief that it is an objective decision. It isn’t. Football has made a clear and obvious error in thinking that it is.

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