VAR is hurting Liverpool and the Premier League but I’m glad referees make mistakes

VAR continues to cause unending controversy across elite-level football, with each decision under greater scrutiny than ever before.

Some Liverpool legends have had their say on VAR as scrutiny on technology continues and Jurgen Klopp demands improvements.

In Liverpool matches over the festive period alone there has been debate over whether the right calls were made to disallow Cody Gakpo and Harvey Elliott goals against Burnley, and why the Reds weren’t awarded a penalty for a Martin Odegaard handball against Arsenal.

But such incidents are just the tip of the iceberg, with frustration at the use of technology growing more and more with each passing week in the Premier League.

Of course, Jurgen Klopp’s men aren’t the only team to have fallen foul of VAR this season, but they have been the side to be wronged worst.

Luis Diaz had a perfectly valid goal disallowed against Tottenham Hotspur for offside despite the VAR team actually ruling the Colombian onside.

The PGMOL later apologised and put the decision down to human error, with it no consolation as Liverpool fell to their only loss of the first half of the Premier League season.

But that doesn’t mean Klopp wants to see VAR scrapped anytime soon, with the German instead calling for its utilisation to improve when asked about recent controversies across the English top-flight at his pre-match press conference ahead of his side’s meeting with Newcastle United.

“The problem we all see, every day pretty much, whenever you watch a game, you think how is that possible?” he said. “The two goals for us (against Burnley) I say were both legitimate goals.

“We can talk about it on and on and on and on. We know it already, the authorities probably know it already.

“What do you mean they need to be brave? Oh my god, take VAR away? No, use VAR better is probably the right thing. And I think it could be done.”

But not everyone agrees with the Liverpool manager, with each new controversial incident earning more and more backlash for VAR and officials.

And as the debate regarding VAR’s place in English football rages on, three former Reds heroes from three different generations have been interviewed and they all offered a damning indictment of its use in English football.

Steve McMahon (Liverpool 1985 – 1991):
I was never a fan of it (VAR and technology) because it’s open to conjecture and is all about an opinion. It’s subjective. But you can’t get lines on the pitch and goal-line technology wrong.

We won’t go back to basics because things won’t change and VAR is here to stay, sadly. I just think referees have got it really difficult because it’s pretty much stick and twist to make a decision that’s wrong.

Then it goes to VAR, they then change the decision so it’s very difficult. What was wrong with how it used to be?

You know, I don’t remember any (mistakes) from my own career because you never analysed it. The referee’s decision was the referee’s decision and you got on with it.

Today they are over-analysing everything that goes on in the game. If someone scores a goal, they go and look back over three or four phases of play and go, ‘Well he was fouled 30 seconds ago.’ You can’t keep going back.

I get that there is a lot of money involved in football and one decision can make a big difference, like in Liverpool’s game with Spurs.

But sending offs are subjective decisions. Offside is offside. Goalline is a goal or not a goal. It’s onside or offside and it’s a goal or not a goal. The other decisions are all subjective.

Whether it is three of you in the pub or three of you in the VAR room, two can say it’s this decision, and one will say it’s another. So we still don’t get it right.

Even with VAR, we can’t get a conclusive decision. And everybody in world football can see it.

Neil Ruddock (Liverpool 1993 – 1998):
I don’t agree with VAR. I’m not an advocate of VAR. I’m a goal line technology man. If the ball’s over the line, yes.

Make it word of mouth. Goal or no goal? Go! Goal or no goal, that’s done. If the referee is not clear, is it a goal or no goal? Bam. Done.

I’m just glad that the people at Stockley Park, when they are under pressure, they get it wrong. That’s what footballers do.

When footballers are under pressure and tired and fatigued, we get it wrong. We swear and we shout at referees. Maybe they might just note that down in their book and understand the pressure now.

Neil Mellor (Liverpool 2002 – 2006):
We’ve had VAR and technology for a number of years and I don’t like it. It’s not improved the game that I love, the game that we all love.

I thought VAR was introduced for two decisions. There are too many subjective decisions that go to VAR. There are too many times VAR is involved in football.

There are too many times where VAR is looking to disallow goals for the smallest, minute things. We’re all learning new rules that we never knew existed in football. For handball and things like this. It’s made referees worse.

For me, VAR hasn’t helped the game. It’s used too much, and until it’s used less and used properly, I don’t think technology helps us.



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