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Premier League to test VAR during the season

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The end is nigh

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

There has been some progress in implementing video assistant referee (VAR) in the Premier League, as Sky Sports is reporting that up to 15 league games will include the use of a trial VAR this season. One of 5 fixtures to host the new system on the weekend after the international break will be Chelsea’s game against Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge.

For now, it will merely be a simulated, “as-live” scenario which will be replicated in the VAR match centre, meaning that neither will the actual referee be able to utilize VAR nor will the ones in the VAR room itself be able to interact with the game. The aim is simply to figure out whether or not the one match centre can cope with multiple games simultaneously before fully implementing the system in the 2019-20 season.

VAR has been used successfully in various leagues around Europe, most notably Italy and Germany, and has seen “successful” (or so claim PGMOL) in limited application in domestic cup competitions in England. Now, it’s the Premier League’s turn, though apparently they have “mild concerns” about some of the drummed up controversies regarding the use of the system in the World Cup final ... or the World Cup group stages ... or the friendlies before the World Cup ... or the FA Cup games ... or ... well, you get my point.

Whether or not one is in favour of VAR technology, the problem is, and has always been, that its application is inconsistent, and, at the end of the day, the decisions are still prone to a single point of human failure, the center referee. We’ve also seen plenty of problems with actual application and communication both in the stadium and with the viewing broadcast audience — compared especially with the implementation in tennis or the NFL. There is also the problem of the system being sold as something that’s supposed rid the game of all controversy, when, at best, it will only clear up some while probably causing a few itself. In theory, it should get more “big calls” right than wrong, and that’s a worthwhile goal to strive towards, but in its current form, it needs improvement. Perhaps this further Premier League testing will be helpful, but it likely needs a greater rethink and overhaul already than they’re willing to implement at this point.