By Andrew Warshaw
February 24 – When is VAR not VAR? When the system itself admits it has made a mistake!
In perhaps the most staggering and shambolic ruling made since the video assistant referee system was introduced into top-flight English football this season, the process descended into unprecedented farce at the weekend when VAR officials themselves conceded they made the wrong decision by not recommending a red card for Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Giovani Lo Celso in the Premier League game against Chelsea.
The Argentine appeared to stamp on Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta as Spurs lost 2-1 but after a check for possible violent conduct by the video-assisted officials, Lo Celso escaped without punishment.
As the game continued, a television presenter disclosed that the VAR officials, incredibly, had staged a U-turn by admitting they erred in deciding against recommending a red card. To add insult to injury, Lo Celso will not even be retrospectively punished.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said the incident represented “another huge question mark” for VAR. “I was just waiting for the red card to be shown,” he said. “Saying afterwards they made a mistake is not good enough. That’s what VAR was brought in for, to see things that the referee and the pitch-side [official] don’t see.”
One of the growing criticisms of VAR, which will be tweaked before next season, is that it has become an insurance policy for referees. In other words, whatever decision they make over contentious incidents they will be slated so why not let VAR decide? Additionally, referees are still not sufficiently referring to the pitch-side monitor to review incidents.
Saturday’s u-turn was met with universal derision across social media, with many former top professional players and officials expressing their disbelief that Lo Celso had escaped a red card.
Former head of referees Keith Hackett, who was a FIFA listed referee for a decade between 1981 and 1991, was quoted as saying: “It’s not a difficult decision,” he added. “Lo Celso should have received a red card.”
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