Friday, June 21, 2024

Column: Premier League rejection of VAR is a great thing for the game

Graham Dougan was a youth prospect at Arsenal in the 1970s but never quite made the grade, making his career in the upper echelons of the old division two. He was also a Scottish U25 international. He is a regular pundit on TV in Malta and Luxembourg, and an after-dinner speaker of some repute.

In his latest column, he looks at the issue of VAR after it was announced the Premier League won’t be introducing it next season.

I was delighted to see the news today that Premier League clubs have voted against the use of VAR in the competition next season.

Some people might call me and old stick in the muff, but I’m very uneasy about the increased use of technology in football today. Everything is about aerodynamics and microchips, even the footballs are tested in wind tunnels. What next, shirts made from a fibre which allows the material to draw moisture away from the skin to help keep you dry during exercise?

You see managers on the sidelines now giving instructions to players using laptops and tablets. Back in my day a laptop was what you got when you went to Stringfellows after a game and tablets were for Moses or a headache. What’s wrong with a good old piece of paper and a HB pencil?

We’ve seen VAR used a number of times this season and it has been inconclusive to say the least. All of a sudden the game it stopped and we’re all waiting to hear from a mysterious Video Assistant Referee who exists in a deep, dank storage room somewhere near Slough.

More often than not they’ve got the decision wrong too. If it’s not wiggly lines, it’s a subjective interpretation of the rules which leaves nobody any the wiser. Alan Shearer called it a shambles after an incident in which a player did something and the referee wasn’t sure and then the VAR came back and it said something but further replays showed it was something else entirely.

It’s like VAR is the police, but who will police the police? The last thing we need is for some bright spark at the FA to suggest Sting, but in this celebrity obsessed world you could see that happening. If Usain Bold can train with Borussia Dortmund then anything could happen, and I don’t need to hear from the do-do-do-da-da-da-dah man every time I’m enjoying a live match on the telly.

We have to trust in the eyes and ears and mouths of the officials. They can see and hear what goes on better than anyone despite the fact we can all have ultra slow-motion replays from multiple angles within seconds and they don’t. But they have something none of us do, and that’s proximity. Location, location, location – they’re right beside the action and a camera is far away, even if it can zoom in.

I recall some years ago, during my playing days, we faced Manchester United in a cup game, and I was up against Ashley Grimes. When the referee wasn’t looking, I gave him an enormous root up the hole which got the crowd going. As the referee turned around, he retaliated by boxing me in the mouth, which got him sent off. It was one of my proudest achievements.

That couldn’t happen nowadays and that’s a real shame. The dark arts were as intrinsic a part of football tackling, shooting, heading, or institutional racism, but people these days are robbed of those golden moments because everything gets replayed on the say so of Sky Sports and their ilk.

I want to make it clear that I’m not against technology in all circumstances. I wouldn’t have this column if it wasn’t for the AOL World Wide Web, but we have to ask the difficult questions. How can a video referee, which is simply a machine into which tapes are fed, bring about an improvement to the game?

Unlike the computer systems that run this gadget, decisions in football are not binary 1s and 2s, there’s often context to take into account. By the ladder of the law, a VAR would have sent an instant fax communication to the referee to tell him to send off Gigi Button, the legendary Juventus goalscorer, at the Bernebeu this week. Sure, the actual referee did the same thing after he was called a ‘Rubbish Hearted Bastard’ but we all had the comfort that the decision was made by a man with a weak chin who looks ridiculous in shorts and not a machine who might decide to ‘go rogue’ and play ‘War Games’ which could bring about the destruction of mankind.

Too much of what’s great about this game is being eroded, like our shorelines, but unlike so called global warming and climbing change, we can do something about this. Let’s remember the glorious days when the man in the middle, with his whistle and notebook, was all we needed to run a game of football.

We don’t need your VAR. It’s a stepping stone to having officials who are those terrifying indestructible dog robots that you can’t even knock over with a bat. Video, not content with killing the radio star, now want to kill our referees too.

And I, for one, say NO MORE.

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Disappointed if it gets dropped. Truth should be the ultimate arbiter, not whether people are getting used to it or not. Sure the beginning use of VAR has not always been great. But that’s expected of anything new thats been introduced. You just have to look at rugby and see how effective it is. You don’t throw the baby out of the bathtub End of the day you just want whats right to happen and not feel robbed. Sure, it might come back to bite you when we score a goal and its disallowed, but i would rather much have… Read more »


I think you mean “You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”, although I did laugh for about a full minute at your version of the expression, so I suppose in a sense it’s actually an improvement.

A Different George

Isn’t the actual expression “throwing the radio in the bathtub will kill the football star?”


I’m pretty sure the full expression is “Throwing the radio in the bathtub will electrocute the Mourinho”.

Dr Zebra

And but Mourinho, you mean baby!


Agreed. The truth is that VAR is inevitable. It will happen eventually, but there will always be teething problems with the introduction of new (literally) game-changing technology.

It’s all about learning from mistakes made in the trial periods to allow for a successful implementation in the longer term.

I think the benefits will outweigh the pitfalls in the end, but only if care is taken to do things in the right way.

Jimbo Jones

I watched the commonwealth hockey earlier and was struck by how VAR is applied there, its effectiveness was a world away from the mess we’ve seen to date with the FA so far. There was quick decision making (I mean much quicker than even a simple non-VAR decision in football), clear communication to all players and the crowd, the video ref was empowered to use the info at their fingertips, and in no way was the actual referee undermined or using it as a crutch. In reality, this innovation is what is called a straightforward technology transfer from multiple relevant… Read more »

Dave M

Wouldn’t surprise me if the FA and FIFA are purposefully botching the technologies to make it easier to reject them. This is so pathetic…


VAR is used in almost every sport around the world and has been successful in Italian and German football. Our inability to make it work without taking 5 minutes for each decision is down to our FA consisting of old stubborn people incapable of change and our referees’ incompetence. If us fat arm chair fans can come to a conclusive decision within 5 seconds of seeing the incident on tv highlight, why not have a referee watching the screen who then informs the game referee what conclusion he came to. It would be a great way to get retired referees… Read more »

Evang. Simon

Whether we like it or not…. It will still come to stay

granit(e) hard!

Yup!…its coming, and the decision is just myopic, with the effect that we will get left behind by the other leagues that embraced it.



Mayor McCheese

Oh, so you’d sooner have a video climb the ladder of the law than the referee? I say “no” to climbing change.


There’s a small plastering job I’d like you to do for me…

Filip Gustavsson

“What’s next, shirts made from a fibre which allows the material to draw moisture away from the skin to help keep you dry during exercise?” Why not? That sounds awesome and I see literally no problem with that at all. And asking why it’s better, simpler and more convenient to use a tablet instead of pen and paper is just annoying and you’re not that stupid… Yes, I agree, VAR hasn’t been perfected yet and it won’t be for a while (although I’m not sure what you base the “more often than not they’ve got the decision wrong” claim on)… Read more »

Patrik Ljungberg


Bould's Eyeliner

You do know that things like microfiber sportswear and heattech etc. has been a thing for almost two decades now?


VAR has failed as those that tested it were those that didn’t want it to succeed.

The fact it has been a success in every other code without anywhere near the same level of issues (as they looked to implement technology for the greater good and to improve) Where as football see’s it as a threat and the media drive this line..

The Premier League and Champions League are the only 2 competitions across Europe that won’t be using VAR next season. The 2 x competitions that have the most controversy…?


If I can’t buy a match, then what’s the good of even having it?


the nerd in me loved the “binary 1s and 2s” bit


I see what you did there

Jimbo Jones

Literally laughed out loud at this too

Faisal Narrage

Terrible, horrible article. As someone who worked in the sports medical side of football, I’ve seen the resistance to new technology have a detrimental effect on player performance and health (something arsenal suffered with). This is just further evidence of the dinosaur mentality in football; it’s why modern and progressive new managers seldom get opportunities, because the old boys network like to keep things as they are. It’s even how Arsenal have come to be left behind in areas such as recruitment & scouting (till recently) medical care, because of the oldies who hold on to their rose-tinted old ways.… Read more »

Elneny's Hair

I think you missed the joke.


Thank goodness we have the AOL World Wide Web for you to post your rebuttal ?

Mayor McCheese

I only got 30 minutes of WWW access with the disc that came in the mail, so I’ll have to quickly check my Hotmail account before asking Jeeves whether Graham Dougan really is who he says he is.


maybe its because sky and bt aint got a share in it they control when games are played maybe they want to control the out come of games and havent met the fa prices to do this yet just my opinion im probably wrong though after all they say when and if you can watch a game

Peter Eric Aubergine

Hook line and sinker. Again! Beggars belief …

Jimbo Jones

There is always one! Amazeballs!

Goooooooner for life

One of the worst articles I’ve seen on Arseblog.
Football is not about cheating when the ref isnt looking. That’s just being a cunt. Like divers who try to deceive the ref so they win a penalty, but is that winning or just being a cunt?

Jimbo Jones

Show some respect for legends like Dougan! He was here long before most of the fans here. A great of the game


It’s a joke sir.


“Some people might call me and old stick in the muff,” – Yes sir.


“they’re right beside the action and a camera is far away, even if it can zoom in.” This sentence is just stupid on so many levels


The comments on these columns are my favorite part


I’m still chuckling about the baby and the bathtub


Just watch a game of rugby. See how it works there and cut and paste into footy. Its that bloody simple kids.


A smart move by the PL.

VAR is inevitable in all forms of top-flight professional football, but it has a mountain of problems that need to be ironed out before it should be implemented. I confidently predict that VAR will be a disaster at this year’s World Cup.

Football is not like other sports. It is a free-flowing game which has fewer natural breaks. That’s why you have to think very carefully about how VAR is going to by applied to the sport. This hasn’t been done.

Bernardo Binda

Jesus Christ I actually thought the guy was being serious but it was the binarys 1s and 2s that convinced me this was satire.


I love it! I second the nomination of Sting as head of the FA. New punishment for diving is forced viewing of Sting having tantric sex for 24 hours straight. Problem solved!


Why on earth are you trying to encourage diving!??

Mayor McCheese

Only problem is that Sting has written every diver’s excuse: “don’t stand so close to me.”


And every referees response – ” I’ll be watching you”…..”sometimes”…


I’m with Dougan on this one

Jean Ralphio

Var won’t solve everything but it is a start. Consistency of off side and penalty decisions is something that needs to improve.

Andy Mack

At the moment there are 2 problems with VAR. The first is that the PL and their ringmasters the PGMO prefer to use their own game management to try to keep some interest and excitement (higher media interest/viewing figures) in the PL for as much of the season as possible, and the officials being forced to make correct decisions during the game doesn’t allow them to massage the games towards the results they want. The second problem is that the process for using VAR isn’t used or defined very well. It may well be that the second reason is because… Read more »


Surely it will be “Sir Graham” soon. Mr. Dougan has brilliantly debunked the headlong rush to get the calls right at the expense of the priceless element of randomness and referee bias/incompetence. Next they’ll be pasting yellow cards on players’ foreheads or insisting that linesmen pay attention at all times or expecting that bloke behind the goal to stay awake. I for one would hate not to be able to blame the officials when Arsenal lose a close one and be forced to admit we just plain lost. But I would really like to see the whistle replaced by an… Read more »


I stopped reading when he said institutional racism is like a golden moment for him!


You got that far, and that was the comment that stopped you?


I always enjoy these posts by the old pros.

Whatever happened to that chap who played for England and Scotland? I recall he was very sound on the Sp*rs. Can anyone remember his name?

Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

Blogs: Greetings! It is a sacrilege that someone imbued with so much common sense like Graham Dougan has to endure typographical errors, but even the modernest of modern technologies will suffer from that standpoint. I was thus horrified when his statement “global warning and climbing change” was changed to “global warming and climbing change” as global warning is unfortunately something that is bound to happen. Let us blame AOL for this LOL moment, but what the heck is “global warming” anyway? PS: Interestingly, the Wikipedia page for Graham Dougan mentions that he once had a goal disallowed by some referee… Read more »


VAR is good…But Football lives on Human error…Its not right or fair but its what sets football apart from other sports. Goal line tech was absolutely necessary and i personally just think VAR robs the game of its soul. People looking at other sports applications of it and point out Cricket, rugby, NFL, Basketball etc forget these sports are built upon time outs and resetting per play.


I miss AOL. 🙁

Now, get the hell off my lawn!


Not a fan of replay review in any sport. IMO it is ruining college bball, has helped ruin the nfl, and further contributed to the slow pace of play in baseball. Pro Baseball today is unwatchable.
The only sport I have seen that got it right is rugby. college football got it close to right. Even with college footballl there are frustrations because not everything can be overturned and some of what can be overturned would be better handled with a longer suspension issued after the game.
But I agree it is coming.


Oh and the article was very good satire. Thanks.


Though the stringfellows reference was lost on me, but I can probably guess the meaning.

Public Elneny

Remove the on field officials entirely to a control room behind the scenes – it would be fun watching the players try to figure out where and how the hell to direct there anger. Lots of yelling and gestures at the sky probably, but would they still crowd round in groups?

Dave M

yes, you’re a stick in the mud!


Glad to hear. I’m in Australia and VAR has completely ruined the A-league (the quality of which is poor, but was previously entertaining). Ruins flow, spontaneity and the people making decisions are those not good enough to be out in the middle.

Charles Candles

I, for one, am thankful that we have such thoughtful custodians of the game as Graham Dougan and Chris Sutton.

My only bone to pick with Arseblog is that Leopold Mendacious is no longer given a platform – now more than ever we need fearless journalism.


The USA are trying to destroy football. VAR is the start. Remember this comment when Lady Gaga is playing half time at the CL final

kake hurttivuori



For var to be done well it must be based on a challenge system rather than relying on the ref to refer.

Chris Redman

Is it me misreading the above, or, did Graham write that “institutional racism” is one of the ‘golden moments’ that we have been ‘robbed of’ in recent times?

If I am right, I am disappointed that this was written by Graham and published by Arseblog. If I am wrong then I apologise.


The term assistant referee is misleading. Should just be referee police. The referees are also scared to use it because if too many of their own decisions are incorrect then their job is on the line.

A proper assistant to a referee would be some augmented reality lines on the pitch for the linesmen. Why no one has done this is beyond me. But well with our technology capabilities

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