VAR red card

Jamie Vardy scores in the Premier League for Leicester at Huddersfield. Photo: Matthew Lewis / Getty Images.

VAR wars: English FA score own goal after bizarre “red card rule” surfaces

VAR has been in the Premier League for a week, and it’s already upsetting the fans. Although, a strange anomaly regarding red cards may cheer them up.

VAR red card

Jamie Vardy scores in the Premier League for Leicester at Huddersfield. Photo: Matthew Lewis / Getty Images.

“Introduce more technology to football”, they said. “It’ll create a fairer environment for players and fans alike”, they said. Where are we now with VAR? People are getting their rulers, holding them to the television, and debating why someone’s little finger straying offside is grounds for disallowing a goal.

We need to talk about VAR…

There’s no fiercer debate in football at the moment: The Video Assistant Referees have caused controversy wherever they’ve been used. They may make the right decision, but they do it to an excruciating degree. What is more, the thrill of celebrating a goal has been tempered by the threat of it being chalked off minutes later.

Taking that raw emotion away from the seconds immediately after the ball has hit the net is an affront to the very nature of the sport. Indeed, human officials need help, but they do not need to have every relatively-important decision analysed within an inch of its life. So, as you’d expect, VAR has gone down like a lead balloon in the English Premier League.

Controversial VAR decisions in the 2019/20 season

Just two games into the new season, and there have been some blood-boiling moments: Brighton had an opener taken off them against West Ham last week, after a contentious review. Manchester City have had a couple of debatable decisions go against them, both home and away. Hell, let’s not even entertain the winner Wolves were denied vs Leicester last Sunday.

For whatever reason, the rollout of this technology has been “VARcical” (sorry, genuinely couldn’t help ourselves). So it’s no wonder the official FA rules surrounding this topic are a little shambolic, too.

On Tuesday, football fans across Britain were left sniggering, after the FA had their own rulebook forensically studied. Bizarrely enough, there is a clause in the updated laws of the game that ban players from entering the room where VAR decisions are made – that’s called the Video Operation Room, or VOR.

How to get yourself a red card… 13 miles away from the nearest stadium

Should a player enter the VOR, they can be issued with a red card. That’s hilarious enough on its own, and the thought of an enraged Harry Maguire using his “slabhead” to smash up a few TV screens after having a goal disallowed will keep us warm for many evenings ahead. However, there’s another chapter to this comedy of errors.

Let’s take a look at the FA’s official wording on this:

“The VOR is where the video assistant referee (VAR), assistant VAR (AVAR) and replay operator (RO) work… Only authorised persons are permitted to enter the VOR or communicate with VAR, AVAR and RO during the match – A player, substitute, substituted player or team official who enters the VOR will be sent off.”

Where are VAR decisions made?

Fair cop. Until you realise that the official VOR location is based in Stockley Park, West London – more than 13 miles away from the nearest Premier League ground (Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea). As a bare minimum, a player upset with a reviewed decisions would have to run half a marathon to get sent off in this fashion.

We’ll cut the FA a little slack, here. As it stands, officials in charge of VAR will sit at their hub in Stockley Park: They will watch the match live, alongside an assistant VAR and a Recording Operator (RO). But these red card laws were written-up long before this permanent base was established.

Adama Traore could probably do it in five minutes

The rulebook goes on to state that VOR “may be in / close to the stadium, or at a more distant location.” So yes, by all accounts, we’ve got yet another VAR cock-up on our hands – but this one doesn’t suck the fun out of football. Instead, it lays down the gauntlet for a properly-mad bastard to test the waters.