PETER MORTIMER looks at the shape of things to come in the Premier League.
CONTROVERSY IS STILL RAGING over two recent decisions to disallow Newcastle United goals following consultation with the contentious VAR system.
In the first instance, the referee viewed the incident 126 times over a six-hour period, during which time several players wandered off for a fish supper and the goalkeeper attended his uncle’s funeral.
The goal was eventually judged offside due to a small thread of cotton dangling from the forward’s shirt which was seen to have drifted a tenth of a millimetre beyond the final defender for a brief instant.
In the second example it was said to have been the stubble on the attacking player’s chin which led to him being ajudged offside, leading to official advice from the club for every player to ensure they have shaved one hour before kick-off.
Players are also being urged to wear the thinnest and shortest laces possible and one sniffy striker is seriously considering plastic surgery to his nose after the somewhat extended proboscis has already this season caused five of his goals to be disallowed for offside
Short-legged players are now seen to have an advantage over taller team-mates when sides are being selected as, statistically, the chances of an inch of leg having drifted into an offside area are lower.
On a different note, it has been suggested at FIFA level that live musical entertainment should be offered to keep the crowd occupied during the long delays caused by referees pondering their VAR decisions.
Getting home is another problem: several fans have complained that lengthy VAR disputes have caused them to miss their last bus or Metro due to these long delays, although a spokesman for Newcastle United pointed out that as as the latter transport system has frequently been non-functional in recent months, the effect is less dramatic than might normally have been the case.
One radical suggestion is that the VAR system be done away with entirely; decisions, warts and all, would instead be made by the referee and two assistants, henceforth to be renamed ‘linesmen’. However, as this would suggest that (a)just occasionally human judgement would be judged preferable to that of technology, (b) the word ‘linesmen’ has a 19th Century ring to it, generally these proposals are considered backward looking and Luddite.
Some entrepreneurs have spotted commercial potential in VAR and are looking to introduce lengthy TV ad breaks during periods of inactivity. Betting companies are among the VAR-ads most enthusiastic proponents.
Meanwhile, the customary sights of a crowd exploding with delight to see their team score and a dozen players racing away to dance shirtless around a corner flag have more or less vanished. Goals are now being greeted with a stony silence until technology decides via a health and safety check whether it is right and proper for all to celebrate.