Since last Sunday, we have seen a lot of talk about the refereeing team’s performance in the Chelsea vs Tottenham game. Because the long and the short of it is this. At least one of the two Tottenham goals should not have stood. I have made my support of Chelsea Football Club no secret over the years that I have been writing this blog. You only need to look at how often I write about them. But There were clear errors made by the officials. How on earth they couldn’t look at the incident between Marc Cucurella and Cristian Romero and not only cancel the Tottenham goal, but send Romero off for violent conduct is completely beyond me. VAR was supposed to be an aid to getting rid of the serious errors. That classification simply seems to have become an excuse for when VAR fails to act. Simply claiming that no clear and obvious error occurred for every decision that was missed is just nonsense.
What I think last weekend’s events demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt is that there needs to be a change in how VAR is used and implemented. And I think the Premier League needs to look at other sports for pointers on what to change. I think rugby is actually the perfect example of how well on-pitch officials and videos referees can work together to review decisions and come to one that is in the interest of the match. I’ve argued before that football needs to start allowing referees to pause the match clock to properly review an incident and collaborate with all the officials in the team to come to a decision. If Mike Dean had, as he has admitted he should have done, advised Anthony Taylor to look at the incident again on the pitchside monitor, it is inconceivable to me that Taylor would not have cancelled the Tottenham equaliser and sent Romero off.
I worry that referees at the moment see VAR as something to point out their errors and undermine their authority as the match referee. And it just isn’t at all. It is simply another resource for the referees to use to help them make a decision. Not only do they have the pitch-side monitor where they can review footage of incidents, they also have the VAR in Stockley Park, whom they can collaborate with. Together, they can establish the facts and agree on a suitable punishment if one is necessary. Again, much of this would be based on the Television Match Officials seen in rugby. As I mentioned earlier, referees being able to pause the match clock would allow them the time to properly review incidents without adding a ridiculous amount of added time. One of the reasons there was six minutes of added time at the end of the second half at Stamford Bridge last Sunday was because of the amount of time it took for the officials to sort out the fracas on the touchline and having a review of the first Spurs goal. I don’t believe that goal should have stood either, and Mike Dean’s reasoning that he couldn’t go back 44 seconds to cancel out the goal for a clear foul on kai Havertz by Rodrigo Bentancur is just pure nonsense. Not only did that foul lead directly to the sequence of play that Spurs scored from, but Mike Dean was perfectly happy last season to rule out a Chelsea goal scored by Timo Werner against Southampton for an infringement 144 seconds before the goal was scored. So, either Mike Dean is a hypocrite or the FA and PGMOL have told VAR officials to limit the amount of time they go back to review incidents.
I think as well that there is something more vital to all this. Football fans, pundits and referees seem to be absolutely obsessed with this idea of ‘letting the game flow.’ And I think football needs to move away from that. The referee needs the freedom to take the time and make his decision. And it is also important to remember that there will always be times that we disagree with referees, and we need to accept that. However, I do think there is still untapped potential in VAR to improve the game and until all of football, the fans, the players, the governing bodies, the managers, the pundits, the referees themselves fully embrace it, then we are still going to have incidents like this.