Why is VAR used in FA Cup?

Published: Monday, 08 January 2024

It’s the most basic of principles in any sporting contest - a level playing field. Agreed? Why then is the FA Cup played with one rule for some teams and another for the rest?

You know what I’m referring to? Of course - VAR. Whatever did we do when we allowed paper shufflers and nerds to ruin our game with its implementation? But that’s another question. We’ve introduced it and it’s not going away - even though its operators in England remain bemused by it and bemusing in its use.

I stray again. Sorry. Here’s the point. How on earth can we be using it in some games - at PL grounds - and not at others in the FA Cup? This is the same point I made a year ago, yet here we are again.

How? It’s not right. Look. I agree with those of you who believe that games are better without it. The derby at Sunderland was a barn-stormer, a proper football match, all the better for not having it. It ebbed and flowed - there were tackles that had people out of their seats, scraps and no interminable delays when a goal was scored, because someone in the bunker was trying to find a way to disallow what we all pay to see. It was a joy. I’m convinced that the lack of VAR is one reason Championship football is so popular now. No VAR - that’s the point - not whether the system is good or bad.

Ironically, there was VAR at Kenilworth Road, but even then they couldn’t get it right. Luton were left fuming because they felt they should’ve had a penalty when Alfie Doughty was fouled in the box. Andy Madley thought differently and VAR didn’t get involved - doubtless because they felt they hadn’t seen a ‘clear and obvious’ error. What a load of bollocks that is. It’s not hard - if an injustice is seen - correct it. Doughty was definitely fouled. Never mind ‘protocol’, which is the refuge sought by inadequate operators.

In fairness the Bolton boss Ian Evatt - experiencing VAR for the first time - understood Rob Edwards’ frustration at not getting the decision, but he went on to point out that there should be consistency with VAR in a single competition. He’s right. It won’t be used in the replay of course.

Mind you - don’t mention VAR to Sean Dyche, who’s ready to explode on the subject. How on earth did Calvert-Lewin get sent-off at Palace? We’ve all seen a few howlers engineered by VAR, but that decision was a belter.

Post-match Dyche was polite but you could feel his frustration ‘I remain a fan’, he said (of course he is - that’s what everyone who was wrong about the introduction of the technology always says) ‘but it’s beginning to test my patience’ he added.

The bottom line here is drop VAR for the entire competition (and give us all a break). It isn’t used in the Carabao Cup because, quite rightly, the EFL wanted to create that ‘level playing field’ that I started by talking about - and deemed it to be unfair unless every team was treated the same. It‘s a decision that makes perfect sense.

It could be used in three out of the four semi-final games, but because Middlesbrough don’t have it - it won’t be. That’s only right, but sadly it will be used for the final.

On the subject of Palace/Everton, what on earth were tv execs thinking when they chose that game to kick-off a weekend of FA Cup coverage? It looked drab on paper. It was drab in practice. It was a howler to cover it.

I guess decisions like that are driven by ego. ITV don’t get much live football these days - no PL football at all - so I suppose they want to chose a PL looking fixture where and when they can, as part of their FA Cup coverage. The BBC are as bad in fairness.

If we truly believe there is still ‘magic’ to be found on 3rd round day - gamble - go and find it. The Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash was right, after his team’s brilliant win over Stevenage, when he said ‘most people are amazed that the cameras weren’t here’.

He added ‘the competition is all about a game like ours’. Spot on Mr Ash. The broadcasters should be forced to make 3rd round picks like Maidstone v Stevenage in the contracts that they sign when rights deals are done. When I was at Sky we always went looking for stories like Maidstone’s before going to one of the big clubs. You can do that in the later rounds.

I had to laugh at The Telegraph’s headline after Sheffield Utd’s win at Gillingham. It screamed ‘Wilder delighted to get in winning habit’. I’m sorry? Winning habit? That was their 2nd win in 10 in all comps. 🤷‍♂️.

And come on Newcastle. That picture on the pitch at Sunderland was embarrassing. Save it until you end the trophy drought. It was crass - inflaming the home crowd and making yourselves look daft at the same time.

So Jordan Henderson wants to end his ‘Saudi hell’ and return to the PL? Really? What makes him think he’s still good enough? After six months playing the equivalent of League 1 football does he still have what it takes?

Another story that I was interested to read this past week was that the PL chief Richard Masters has been ‘summoned before MP’s to explain the delay on agreeing a financial settlement with the EFL’. You know the one - talks that would see £915m handed over to EFL clubs by the big boys.

If I was Masters the first thing I’d ask when I got there was ‘could you guys please explain to me why funds from the sale of Chelsea still haven’t found their way to Ukraine?’ They’ve got a nerve these people.