How WE would make VAR better – Sportsmail experts make suggestions

How WE would make VAR better: Mark Clattenburg insists marginal offsides have to go, while Chris Sutton wants to mic up officials… Sportsmail’s experts give their view on what MUST change

  • VAR has been debated seemingly non-stop this season with high profile errors
  • Fans, players and pundits are hugely frustrated by the way it is being used 
  • So what could be done to streamline the system and improve it for next season? 

VAR controversy has never been far away this season with players, fans and pundits alike growing tired of the system designed to improve football and eradicate human errors.  

Changes must be made and the Premier League are open to suggestions, writing to clubs this week in a bid to come up with a plan for improvements. 

Here, Sportsmail’s experts have their say on what needs to happen to clean up VAR.   

MARK CLATTENBURG – Get rid of marginal offsides

I am a fan of VAR. It’s good for the game, it just needs streamlining. The one thing I would change? Well, what creates the most controversy?

For me, it’s those marginal offsides. Social media goes into a spin whenever those dreaded lines are being drawn. Supporters clearly aren’t taking to these small margins. 

Go back to assistant referees flagging for offside and stand by that decision. The odd mistake will be made, but it’s better than seeing those lines drawn to toes, armpits, shirt sleeves and whatever else. That only damages the game.

Social media goes into meltdown whenever goals are ruled out for marginal offside calls 

It stops players and fans celebrating because they fear their goal won’t stand if VAR spots a stray big toe somewhere. 

To leave it to the officials on the pitch would take us back to the days of strikers scoring and glancing over to see if a flag was raised. 

If the assistant has kept it down, happy days, you can celebrate! If not, better luck next time! To introduce a ‘margin of error’ for offside and VAR wouldn’t work, because how far would you go? I’d rather see it removed.

The PGMOL have to ask themselves: how can we enhance the spectacle for supporters? That should be the refereeing body’s top priority, before they start wondering whether they can borrow NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope for closer looks at tight offside calls.

The average supporter can become baffled while watching his or her team in the Premier League. Sometimes a referee or VAR makes a call which leaves those at home saying, ‘Eh?’

Then Stockley Park scramble to release an explanation. Instead, let’s hear what is said between the referee and his VAR in those key moments. They will still make the odd mistake. 

Erik Pieters seemed to handle the ball but no explanation was given for no penalty being given 

They will still get told their interpretation was wrong and be bashed by keyboard warriors. But at least the average viewer would be able to understand how and why the officials came to a conclusion.

That Erik Pieters handball against Arsenal — let’s hear why referee Andre Marriner and VAR Kevin Friend didn’t think it met the criteria for a penalty against Burnley. It happens in other sports. Why not the most popular sport of them all? Australian referee Jarred Gillett, who is VAR for Newcastle v Aston Villa tonight, wore a mic for his final A-League match Down Under. Look it up online. It worked perfectly. It provided insight. Broadcasters would love it here and it would add to the excitement factor.

Football is an entertainment business, so let’s entertain.

IAN LADYMAN – It’s the laws that are failing us

I never wanted VAR. It has done exactly what I feared it would do: slowed down the game, robbed us of spontaneity and presented us with a new set of problems to replace the old ones. 

However, as we look to move forward, the most pressing matter is to change two important laws of the game.

The offside law in its current form is a joke. The advantage has been taken from the attacking team and that is wrong. Similarly, handball has become less of a deliberate infringement and more of a way to punish unfortunate accidents.

VAR has slowed the game down and robbed fans of the spontaneity that brought joy 

The only way to defend safely these days is to tie your arms behind your back. VAR is not to blame for these issues. In picking them up and bringing them to a referee’s attention, VAR is actually doing its job perfectly.

If we really want players to be called offside by the width of an armpit, then VAR is the only way to make that happen. 

So before we start dismantling technology that so many people called for so loudly, let’s look at the laws of the game. They are failing us.

MIKE KEEGAN – Ditch it and give refs the power

VAR — a system overseen by humans — was brought in to eliminate human error. How does that work?

It is not fit for purpose because it is fundamentally flawed. We are told it is there to rectify ‘clear and obvious errors’ and yet we have this ludicrous situation where the game is stopped, Stockley Park cannot make a decision and the referee is dragged over to watch the incident on a screen before making the call. A nonsense.

Fractional offside decisions are infuriating and not in the spirit of what the law intended

And what of VAR’s impact on the offside rule? I am fairly certain that when, in 1863, the rule was brought in, it was to prevent goal-hanging — and not to stop someone scoring because their elbow was an inch beyond the defender’s backside.

The whole thing is a sorry, unnecessary mess.

Keep goal-line technology, ditch VAR. Let’s give power back to the referees — at least we can hold them accountable when they get it wrong.

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