The Premier League's VAR Dilemma: To Scrap or Reform?

Discover the Premier League's ongoing debate about scrapping or reforming VAR. Learn about the controversies, fan opinions, and potential improvements for the future of football officiating.

Daniel N.
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Premier League's VAR

Premier League's VAR Dilemma

The introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to the Premier League aimed to bring more accuracy and fairness to football matches by assisting referees in making critical decisions. However, VAR has become a contentious topic among clubs, managers, players, and fans. As Premier League clubs prepare to vote on whether to scrap VAR, this article explores the current state of VAR, the issues it faces, and the likelihood of its abolition or reform.

The Introduction of VAR

VAR was implemented to reduce human error in key decisions, such as goals, penalties, red cards, and mistaken identity. It involves a team of officials reviewing decisions made by the on-field referee using video footage. The system is designed to intervene in cases of "clear and obvious errors" or "serious missed incidents."

Initial Reception and Growing Discontent

Initially, VAR received mixed reactions. Some appreciated its potential to ensure fairness, while others criticized its impact on the game's flow. Over time, issues such as inconsistent decision-making and prolonged review times have led to widespread frustration. According to a Football Supporters' Association (FSA) survey, 63.3% of fans now oppose VAR, a significant shift from the 74.6% support it had before its introduction.

Common Issues with VAR

  • Inconsistencies: Different officials have varied interpretations of what constitutes a "clear and obvious error," leading to inconsistent decisions.

  • Decision Times: Prolonged review times disrupt the game's flow and frustrate players and fans alike.

  • Psychological Impact: Players are constantly second-guessing their actions, fearing scrutiny by VAR.

Notable Controversies

High-profile incidents have put VAR under the spotlight. Examples include:

Manager and Player Opinions

Managers like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have criticized VAR for its inconsistencies and the additional stress it places on players. Many players share this sentiment, feeling that VAR has added an unwelcome layer of anxiety to the game.

Fan Opinions

Fan surveys consistently show strong opposition to VAR. For example, a Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) poll found that less than 1% of fans support keeping VAR in its current form, with over half unwilling to accept any attempt to improve it.

VAR in Other Leagues

VAR has had varied success in other leagues. The Bundesliga, for example, has seen a smoother implementation compared to the Premier League. Analyzing these differences can provide insights into potential improvements for VAR in English football.

The Future of VAR

Proposals for improving VAR include better training for officials, clearer guidelines, and advancements in technology to reduce decision times. Semi-automated offside technology, set to be introduced next season, is expected to cut decision-making time by over 30 seconds. In-stadium announcements to explain VAR decisions are also planned, aiming to enhance transparency.

The Upcoming Vote: Scrap or Reform?

A vote to scrap VAR requires a two-thirds majority (14 out of 20 clubs). While Wolves are pushing for its abolition, it is unlikely they will secure the necessary support. Instead, significant reforms are more probable. Clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Tottenham support retaining and improving VAR.

Arguments for Keeping VAR

Proponents argue that despite its flaws, VAR has increased the accuracy of decisions from 82% to 96%. They believe that with improvements, VAR can achieve its initial goals and enhance officiating quality.

Arguments for Scrapping VAR

Opponents argue that the disruptions and inconsistencies outweigh the benefits. They believe that traditional refereeing, despite its imperfections, provides a more fluid and enjoyable game experience.


While Premier League clubs and fans have legitimate grievances with VAR, the likelihood of it being completely scrapped is slim. Ongoing efforts to refine and improve the system are expected, aiming to find a balance between technological assistance and preserving the essence of the game.

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