The Roar
The Roar



It's hard to enjoy the football when all anyone can talk about is VAR

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5th December, 2021
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Maybe it was a good thing Perth Glory thumped Melbourne Victory so comprehensively in their 3-0 win at AAMI Park on Sunday, because otherwise we’d only have VAR to talk about.

The visitors finished over the top of Victory in front of another raucous home crowd in Melbourne, but only after the hosts had defender Rai Marchan dismissed for a high foot on Jonathan Aspropotamitis in first-half stoppage time.

Referee Kurt Ams was in close proximity to the incident and saw fit to hand Marchan a yellow card for what was an undeniably high challenge – even if the Spaniard clearly had eyes for the ball.

But after a lengthy VAR review, Ams upgraded the card to red and Victory were left to play the entire second half with ten men.

It’s a bit hard to know what Ams might have done differently. He made a quick decision initially, and VAR exists precisely so that referees can correct any particularly grievous errors.

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But the problems with VAR in the A-League Men’s competition are twofold. Firstly, it’s rarely used solely to correct clear and obvious errors and is instead used to re-referee incidents that have already been adjudicated on.

And even when it’s used to fix clear and obvious errors, much of the time the decisions that end up being made are wrong anyway.

Western Sydney’s opening goal in their 2-0 win over Wellington Phoenix in Wollongong on Friday night was a case in point.

Former Phoenix striker Tomer Hemed clearly fouled Callan Elliot when he shoved the Wellington defender to the ground before half-volleying home, but VAR officials missed it because they were simply focusing on whether Hemed’s effort crossed the goal-line.


It prompted A-Leagues Managing Director Danny Townsend to tweet in the aftermath: “Decisions are always controversial – we will continue to work with the FA to optimise the VAR process and the quality officiating to ensure our product is as good as it should be.”

But a day later, after Sydney FC were denied a late Adam Le Fondre winner in their 2-2 draw with the Newcastle Jets, Townsend tweeted some very different thoughts.

Townsend doubles as both the A-Leagues Managing Director and current Sydney FC CEO, and while he may be the hardest-working man in show business, it’s hard to see how the dual roles don’t represent a conflict of interest.

Wellington also believed Hemed hand-balled in the build-up to an earlier Phoenix goal disallowed by the VAR, and the Kiwis felt sufficiently aggrieved to seek an explanation from the A-Leagues’ head of referees after the match.

Given that Wellington are one side that actually tries to play attacking football under Ufuk Talay, it’s hard not to sympathise with the current Wollongong-based battlers.

Wellington Phoenix manager Ufuk Talay

Ufuk Talay (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)


But the frustratingly negative tactics of some other teams remains somewhat of a mystery.

Adelaide United looked like they had more than enough talent on the park to beat Brisbane Roar in a grinding encounter on Redcliffe on Saturday afternoon, but then they also spent an awful lot of time arguing with referee Chris Beath.

Javi Lopez was always going to collect his second yellow card after diving in on Roar substitute Juan Lescano in stoppage time, but the Spaniard arguably deserved to see red for his furious reaction anyway.

And while the Reds are entitled to play their football as hard-nosed as they want to, it’s difficult to understand why so many A-League Men sides are often so relentlessly negative in a league they can’t even get relegated from.

Thank heavens for the Newcastle Jets under new coach Arthur Papas. The Novocastrians were good value for their point in Kogarah on the back of a virtuoso Valentino Yuel display.

But all the major talking points, once again, were around VAR.

It would be nice if we could focus on the action on the pitch, because right now it feels a bit like we’re watching a refereeing convention broken up by sporadic outbursts of football.