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How do you feel about VAR being used in the playoff final?

After lengthy discussions, it has been confirmed that VAR will be used in Saturday’s playoff final. How do our panel feel about video technology influencing the game?

Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

In general, I am still quite anti-VAR. I feel that it is often implemented incorrectly, and used to enforce laws of the game that are too muddled.

I’d much rather the definitions of handball and offside, for example, were tidied up before we do anything else, and I also think it spoils the universal appeal of the game when different competitions now have different systems in place.

So much about football is open to interpretation, and when incidents are slowed down and viewed in isolation on a screen, they can become a bit distorted. I also feel slightly frustrated that this is only being considered for the final game. In my opinion, decisions about when and where VAR should be used need to be made at the start of the season, and not towards the end.

That being said- and I know I’m making a 180 degree turn that even Patrick Roberts would be proud of- I can see the upsides of it being used on Saturday.

It would be galling if we were to lose such an important game to an incorrect call that could otherwise have been definitively wrong, and given the fact that Wycombe Wanderers have been known to utilise the dark arts of football, we could do with an extra pair of eyes on them.

In an ideal world, and no matter how the game is officiated, if Sunderland play to the level of which they are capable, they should have enough to win. Hopefully we do so fairly and squarely, and without any tedious arguments over referees.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 2nd Leg Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Mark Wood says…

I hated VAR from the moment I first saw it in widespread use at the 2018 World Cup, with players constantly protesting everything to the referee and telling them to stop the games to check the monitors, which they did.

I accept that is there to eradicate the bad decisions, but as we often see in the Premier League, the system isn’t foolproof and bad decisions still occur.

Four years on, I’m still not convinced that the positives of the system outweigh the negatives.

Since 2018, we have complained about the standard of refereeing in League One on a weekly basis.

We see shocking decisions all the time, with fouls committed right in front of the referee, stonewall penalties waved aside, and even the most basic of laws- such as defenders passing back to their own goalkeepers- ignored.

If VAR is used for this match, at least we have a chance of the game being refereed fairly.

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

Personally, I think it is a good idea, and that it will benefit Sunderland more than the opposition.

These games can be of massive financial benefit to the winner, and if any game should make use of VAR, it should be a final like this.

During the last few seasons, one of our biggest issues has been taking on teams like Wycombe. They push lads around, and spend a lot of time preventing football from being played. They really stretch the boundaries of the laws, and of all the issues that we have had to deal with in the third tier, this one is arguably the one we have struggled with most.

I don’t suggest for a minute that VAR will stop them playing in the way they were hoping to, but it does mean that questionable decisions can be reviewed, such as the manhandling of Ross Stewart. He is elusive, faster than he looks, and should have had a few more goals from the penalty spot this season.

I’m happy that VAR is going to be used, with the only negative being the delays while decisions are checked and confirmed, which sometimes stop you celebrating as you normally would.

A major benefit for our Lads and the fans, in my view, and it also provides extra assistance to the referee in what is a very high-stakes game.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Rich Speight says…

I’m not against VAR in general. I tend to think that if it is used well, and with common sense, it can improve the game.

However, I am against its use in a competition - EFL League One - that hasn’t had it running all season long, and that many of the players have not experienced before.

I understand that this is a one-off, standalone game, but it still feels like moving the goalposts while the ball is still in play.

To subject our game to an experiment five days before it happens, and to introduce a new feature into our team’s preparations at this late stage, doesn’t feel right at all.

The Lads know how to deal with the ups and downs of bog-standard officials, but you can’t argue with some virtual lines on a screen, or a slow-motion replay that makes what last week would have been considered a perfectly decent challenge look like assault and battery.

Yes, we’ve experienced the downside of crap League 1 referees for four years, but we also tend to forget those moments when, if a decision had been referred to the people upstairs, we’d have had a goal chalked off or a penalty given against us at a crucial moment.

That said, if Wycombe have two goals ruled out because their strikers are holding down our defenders, and a man sent off who would otherwise be yellow carded, I’ll be happy enough. I can just see this curveball being the thing we’re talking about on Saturday night, rather than a Sunderland victory.

Wycombe Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images


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