It is with a genuinely heavy heart I am forced to write about VAR.
Discussions of the video review system have already become tedious, repetitive and often ill-informed.
Generally, people aren’t impressed.
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Stockley Park, home of the video assistant referees, is spoken about in the same tone as Mordor and the Death Star.
Personally, I have resisted the VAR-bashing because there’s not much more you can say beyond the buzz phrases: kills emotion, in-stadium experience, etc.
But a split-second of Bournemouth vs Man City this Sunday afternoon has dragged me into the mire.
In his 400th appearances for the champions, David Silva nipped in ahead of Jefferson Lerma to gain possession in the Cherries’ box.
He was sent tumbling by the Colombian midfielder, who stepped on the Spaniard’s foot.
Referee Andre Marriner waved away City’s appeals, an understandable decision given the fine margin and speed of the incident.
What’s more inexplicable is VAR’s failure to award a penalty with the benefit of multi-angled replays.
Had the referee given the foul, replays would have proven it to be the correct decision — Bournemouth could have had no complaints.
VAR officials are instructed only to overturn the on-field referee’s decision in such instances if they deem it to be a ‘clear and obvious’ error.
We’re told the Premier League are using a high threshold, meaning it takes a lot for a decision to be overturned.
But here’s where the waters are muddied.
Marriner’s decision was not a howler in real time but the replays show Lerma clearly and obviously made zero contact with the ball and a lot of contact with Silva’s planted foot.
The ambiguous caveat has prevented the right decision being made (City penalty) despite the technology highlighting the foul to those in charge.
It’s going to be the question of the season: just what is ‘clear and obvious’ then?
I should point out the dreaded phrase does not apply to offsides or goals resulting from any deflection off the hand.
A lot of people were saying Willy Boly and Aymeric Laporte’s indiscretions were not ‘clear and obvious’ but the Premier League have said those incidents are more objective.
We’ve already seen the offside rule enforced to the millimetre — Raheem Sterling’s armpit hair was adjudged to have strayed beyond the last defender in City’s opener.
But City fans have every right to question the meaning of ‘clear and obvious’ after today.
It didn’t cost them in the end, as goals from Sergio Aguero (2) and Sterling ensured Harry Wilson’s pinpoint free-kick was nothing but a consolation.
Bias? Conspiracy? Probably not.
Literally as I’m writing this, Spurs have been denied a penalty in similar fashion with the VAR officials backing Mike Dean rather than overturning based on damning replays.
Uncertainty is making VAR’s debut Premier League season contentious at best.