I’ve been playing, coaching, watching, discussing and debating football for over 50 years.
In the past, the debate and the discussion were always about the play and the players, but things have changed.
How many articles and forum threads are about the rules and their interpretation these days?
Seriously, putting massive corruption to one side, the two worst things FIFA ever did were try to “clarify” the handball rule and introduce VAR.
The fans have never been so constantly upset as they are now and if FIFA don’t listen – don’t properly engage with the idea that just maybe they got it wrong – then hordes of fans will be turned off the game.
Can anyone without a vested interest please explain why the demented numbskulls in the corridors of power thought there was a need to redefine handball?
It used to be simple. Handball is only a foul when done intentionally. Intention was up to the ref’s interpretation – end of. There were occasional lamentations about specific incidents (I’m looking at you, Thierry Henry) but nothing like the constant outrage of the modern era.
There are so many aspects to the so-called “clarification” of handball that no two referees have the same idea and the fans are increasingly bewildered and aggrieved by inconsistent applications.
But even worse is the stupid VAR system.
It was introduced as a means of correcting absolute howlers – decisions so bad that the fans would emerge with flaming torches and pitchforks if something wasn’t done.
It might have been a good idea in principle, but in application it’s become a complete farce. The reason being that the decision whether to use VAR is still a subjective decision in one person’s hands.
Some VAR refs follow the proper guidelines and only intervene when a spectacularly bad decision (or non-decision) has been made. Kudos to them.
Others, however, subject every decision to the finest forensic examination – taking minutes to determine whether a decision was technically correct – and as often as not, they still can’t tell for certain. These decisions are not howlers, and should not be subject to the intervention of VAR.
But there is an even worse VAR ref – those who subject some decisions to fine forensic examination, but not others. It is these VAR refs who really get the fans riled. Could you imagine how you'd feel if Australia went out of the World Cup to a decision like the one against Kye Rowles last night?
I would love Kurt Ams and Adam Fielding to read through the Mariners forum after last night’s game against Adelaide. After Stebre Delovski came out and criticised their performance, a part of their rehabilitation ought to be a commitment to reading through the outrage and grief they inspired.
Because the number one objective for any referee is to avoid having any sort of influence on the outcome of a match. When a team dominates play but loses 3 – 2 to three penalties – all of them very dubious (if not plain wrong) – then you cannot tell me the referees had no impact on the game.
The fans pay their money to watch the players.
Not the refs.
Get rid of VAR and go back to the simple “intentional” rule for handball. You’ll see a lot less whinging from me if that ever happens.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His new novel, Welcome to Ord City, is now available.