I was at the Leicester v Wolves game on Sunday where the key moment in a goalless draw was a goal disallowed following a VAR review that revealed the ball had been accidentally handled by an attacking player in the penalty area. Accidental handballs in such circumstances are now considered an offence so VAR did its job in ruling the goal out by the letter of the law. But is this handball rule, or the way VAR is used, good for the game? I don’t believe either are.
For anyone that didn’t see the incident. Wolves midfielder Dendoncker and their defender Willy Boly both attacked a corner. Boly missed the ball but Dendoncker headed it towards goal. Boly was by now facing away from the ball which hit the back of his arm and rebounded back to Dendoncker who put the ball in the net. A year ago the deflection from Boly would have been considered fortunate, now it is considered illegal. The player could not have got out of the way, he did nothing to deliberately affect the direction of the ball, he did not even see the ball coming, but he is considered to have committed an offence. I find it beyond belief and beyond common sense that accidental handball can be considered an offence.
On the same weekend, Sheffield United had an attempt on goal that was heading in until it struck the arm of one of their own players and rebounded to Billy Sharp who scored. The goal was allowed. In the game between Paris St Germain and Nimes, a corner was cleared and a minute later it was notified that a VAR review would be carried out. It was seen that a Nimes defender had handled the ball before it was cleared. PSG were awarded a penalty from which they scored. The penalty was awarded because the handball was considered deliberate. If it had been considered accidental then no penalty would have been given because accidental handball is not considered an offence in France.
I do hope this accidental handball offence is a rule that gets reviewed because I don’t believe it makes sense, I don’t believe it is logical.
With regard to VAR then it did its job by identifying what is now considered an offence. What happened in the stadium is that Wolves fans celebrated the goal, I saw no complaints from Leicester players, and their supporters had accepted they had conceded. The players were lined up ready for the kickoff to restart the game when the big screen notified us that VAR was reviewing the goal, as is deemed should be the case after every goal. A full 90 seconds passed before the screen told us the goal had been disallowed. Leicester fans then understandably celebrated the decision taken by someone in a distant TV studio.
A replay of the incident was not shown on the big screen, and the reason for the decision was not shown either. People of the media were no doubt able to study the incident on their monitors, and those illegally watching a stream of the game at home would also have been able to assess what had happened. But those that had taken the time and expense to attend the game were not. If VAR is going to be a key factor in all the main incidents in a game then anyone that wants to follow a game thoroughly is surely better watching a game on their sofa rather than forking out the cash to travel to and attend a game and put money into the sport. It was not until I had got home and watched TV highlights that I was aware of why the goal was disallowed. How is that possibly good for the game? Do we want the game to become one mainly supported by armchair fans?
To me, VAR should only be used for disputed decisions or where the referee has doubts about what is the correct decision. And then that incident should be able to be reviewed by those who have paid to watch the game. And little clubs like Man Utd and Liverpool would just have to invest in a big screen! As for the accidental handball rule, well that’s just stupid and needs to be abandoned.