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Roker Roundtable: “Is it time for VAR to be introduced in the Championship?”

As controversial refereeing decisions continue to dominate the post-match discussions, we asked our own whether video technology be used in the second tier

Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Mitch Marshall says…

I feel a visceral aversion to VAR, and I think it takes some of the joy out of football without adequately making up for it through clear-cut correct refereeing decisions.

Taking the emotion out of it, I would look at the Premier League as an example.

Newcastle United were denied a penalty by the same referee as us a few days ago, despite VAR apparently being in operation, and fans of teams across the top tier seem pretty dissatisfied with the way the technology has ‘worked’ since its introduction.

If the Premier League can’t get it right, the EFL has next to no chance.

As we’ve already seen, the standard of refereeing in the league this season has been incredibly inconsistent, and I have no confidence whatsoever that asking those same people to operate the technology to solve the problem they’ve created would work.

We could end up with a situation where VAR robs us of some of the best bits of match day without solving the glaring errors we are seeing on a weekly basis. Maybe one day, its obvious benefits and fluent operation will make its implementation in the Championship inevitable, but that is far from the case as it stands.

Another point I’d make is that my biggest complaint about the officiating during Sunderland games this season wouldn’t even be in VAR’s remit.

Yes, we probably should’ve had a penalty against Blackburn, but individual mistakes like that are part of the game.

What is most unbearable is the way that teams regularly stop us playing through a series of tactical fouls, only for the referee to let them get away with it, and book one of our players when they give the merest hint of doing something similar. VAR would only fix this in very rare cases where a red card might be deemed appropriate.

Refereeing standards are at a low ebb right now, but in my opinion, VAR is emphatically not the answer.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ian Bendelow says…

I am completely against VAR, despite the fact it would’ve potentially delivered three points against Blackburn.

It seems that despite the constant tweaks to iron out the substantial teething problems that the new technology brought, we are no further forward in finding a satisfactory solution.

The big issue is that it still appears to be used as a crutch by officials to help them arrive at the right decision, but it simply serves to cause confusion, because referees think “oh, I’ll let VAR decide”, and as such, they don’t take a view in their own mind as to what the decision should be.

Was this the case with Craig Pawson? Did he hesitate on the penalty because he thought he could go back to it, before he realised it was too late?

What we really need to do is to improve the quality of officiating in the leagues.

This week has seen a Premier League set of officials, all of whom are equally culpable, oversee a set of decisions that you wouldn’t expect to see in the lowest echelons of the football pyramid.

We cannot have computers officiating the game. It must be led by humans, and right now, it feels like VAR is causing some officials to shirk their responsibility.

Nigeria v Chile: FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 Photo by Angel Martinez - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Mark Wood says…

I have to start off by making one thing absolutely clear: I hate VAR.

I hated it from the moment I first saw it in action during the 2018 World Cup, with players ruining the tournament by protesting to the referees at every opportunity, and demanding every challenge and every goal should be checked, or so it seemed.

In the Premier League, meanwhile, we regularly see fan celebrations killed off as a goal is checked to see if it is legitimate, not to mention the countless goals that are chalked off because an attacking player’s eyelash was offside and the lengthy stoppages as the officials make up their mind.

However, even as much as I would say ‘no’, there is no disputing that it would’ve changed the game on Tuesday night.

A penalty would’ve been awarded to us, Blackburn’s first goal wouldn’t have happened, and later in the game, a VAR check on the second goal would’ve surely ruled it out for offside. In a VAR-adjusted game, therefore, Sunderland would have won 1-0 - assuming Rovers didn’t change their game plan and that the system got it right.

I am of the belief that without it, these things even themselves up over time, and if you want proof of this, you should look no further than Saturday’s win over Wigan.

With VAR in operation, Elliott Embleton would’ve probably been sent off in the first half, and he wouldn’t have been on the pitch in the second half to score our equalizer.

As much as it pains me, I still say no.

There are still poor decisions being made by the men with the technology, because they are nothing more than the referees we see out on the pitch.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says…

In my state of apoplectic rage after Tuesday’s game, I felt the need for VAR to make an appearance in the Championship, but a mellowed state of mind tells me that it should be avoided.

For all the frustration at Ewood Park, VAR frustrates me more.

That isn’t to suggest that I’m fundamentally against it, but the fact we’re several years down the line and the system hasn’t even been perfected by the supposed best referees in the country means that I can’t see it making for a pleasant experience with objectively worse officials.

Fundamentally, the solution to poor officiating isn’t technology as much as it is employing competent officials.

Rather than ploughing money into technology to assist officials who are now seemingly overly reliant on it, you can’t help but think the money would be better spent on attracting ex-players and training current officials to an acceptable standard.

The FA’s stance of protecting referees at all costs only hastens the race to the bottom and breeds a level of incompetence that, in any other profession, would see someone out of their job.

The focus should be on the training, recruitment and monitoring of officials in all four divisions of professional football rather than relying on technology to bail them out.


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