Football isn’t science - it’s art.

Published: Monday, 28 September 2020

What a mess. What an absolute mess. All in the pursuit of perfection. And that’s impossible. It simply isn’t achievable.

I’ve never known a time when football ‘people’ have been so unified. The new handball interpretations are a nonsense. So say Glenn Hoddle, Alan Shearer, Steve Bruce, Jose Mourinho, Roy Hodgson Andy Gray, Mark Halsey - if I named them all I’d be here all day.

Who should we blame? Well certainly not the guys in the middle. They’re just following instructions. They don’t like what’s happening either. How do I know? Look at their body language when they leave the pitch. They’re as bemused as the rest of us and we even have an example of a ref saying as much this weekend.

Kevin Friend awarded Everton the penalty that eventually won the match at Palace. From impeccable sources I’m told that he shared his views with the Palace coaching staff after the game. He didn’t think it was a pen - but having been invited to the monitor to have a look - he gave it.

Now. There’s two things here. Based on the nonsense that we’ve been enduring he was correct. But - he didn’t think it was. So what changed his mind. Is there something more sinister at work here? I’m beginning to think there is.

A season of pressure - mainly from us at beINSPORTS - led to a change in the way we use VAR in the PL. Refs are now asked to look at pitchside monitors when there are ‘subjective’ decisions to be made. Quite right too. The ‘match day’ ref HAS to have the final decision on these things.

Initially I bought into this - not thinking for a moment that Stockley Park were still interfering. Can you think of a ref that’s been invited to a monitor actually standing by his original decision? No. You can’t - because it hasn’t happened. Why? Well - based on what Friend said - I can only think that refs are still being told from the bunker what they should be doing. If so - this is outrageous. Based on what we know of their guv’nor Mike Riley’s ‘control freak’ personality I wouldn’t put it past him.

Why did Chris Kavanagh overturn his decision to give Brighton a pen when Pogba clearly brought Aaron Connolly down? Because Simon Hooper, who was watching in the bunker, told Kavanagh that Conolly had ‘initiated the contact and that it was a dive’. Really? I don’t think so. And what if he had ‘initiated’ the contact? That’s his job in that situation - to get across a defender in the box. Had Kavanagh made a ‘clear and obvious error’? No. He hadn’t. So why was he asked to look at it again? And if it wasn’t a pen - why then did Michael Oliver give Leicester two at City that were identical? Of course it was a pen. Kavanagh should’ve stood his ground. Or was he told to change his mind?

I’m certain the PGMOL will argue to the contrary - but I’m not convinced. Of course, there’s one very easy way for us to be sure - that is to air the conversation that’s taking place. Why not? It happens in other sports. We’ve got VAR for that reason. Let us ALL hear what’s being said - not just sneaky broadcasters who are listening in. You know who you are...🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️ 

I’ve never wavered from this view - football didn’t need VAR. I know we’ve got it and I know it isn’t going away - but our game didn’t need it. Football is art - it’s not a science and we shouldn’t try to make it so. There are grey areas. There always should be grey areas.

We were told that we needed technology because too much is at stake now. Nonsense. Villa are only with us this season because technology - goal line technology and VAR - failed. The point they got against Sheffield United was the very point that kept them up. It’s not their fault - and I know they got 8 more after that game - but what happened is no different to the example I’m always hearing ‘Bolton went in 1997 because a ‘goal’ they got against Everton wasn’t given’. They eventually went on goal difference but would’ve stayed up had they got a point at Chelsea on the last day of the season. To add insult to injury - Everton stayed up. Had Gerry Taggart’s goal against them in the September been given the roles would be been reversed. We can’t cut it both ways.

The madness we’re watching at the moment is an extension of the lawmakers desire to deliver something that’s not achievable - perfection. I repeat - that simply isn’t possible. Even with technology we’re still arguing about decisions - the Brighton pen being a very good example. That’s how it should be - so why do we need VAR?

Another development on that front this week was the news that Pierluigi Collina and Arsene Wenger are close to perfecting a technique that will allow technology to call offside decisions. How do I know that? Because David Dein, one of the arch exponents of VAR, said as much in a presentation to SoccerEx. Heaven help us.

But let’s finish how we started. Who do we blame for the mess that the new handball regulations have inflicted on us? David Roland Elleray is the answer - X PL ref and the current Technical Director of IFAB. The same ref that gave Sky three different reasons for disallowing a Chesterfield goal at Old Trafford in the FA Cup semi-final against Middlesboro. Three reasons - all before he left the ground - and not one of them stood up to examination. The decision almost certainly cost Chesterfield a once in a lifetime chance to play at Wembley. 

Elleray hated tv and refused to ever to talk us again. He made a fool of himself That day and he’s doing it all over again. Stop it. Stop him. Please - this has all gone too far.