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Guardiola, Man City and the VAR Devil....

Pep Guardiola and Man City will be cursing the arrival of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) more than most, lightning striking twice at the Etihad Stadium following last seasons European Champions League quarter-final with City yet again being denied a last-gasp goal against Spurs in yesterday evening's EPL match. Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo bemoans the impact of VAR on the free-flowing nature of soccer; suggesting that the spontaneity and raw passion and the instant emotions of the crowd will become diluted and eventually killed off by VAR-enforced delays. "We celebrate (a goal) and then we don't celebrate. And then the opposition fans celebrate a non-goal. It's not the mindset of the game." The problem with the hasty introduction of VAR is the fundamental problem that football is a free-flowing contest with few natural breaks in play. Unlike rugby or cricket or tennis, where natural pauses enable the relatively inobtrusive use of technology, football does not afford the same luxury. And unlike the goal-line technology that provides immediate confirmation or otherwise of a fact - has the ball crossed the goal-line or not - without disturbing the flow of the game, the nature of VAR's application to incidents of subjective opinion has inevitable consequences of delay. But, EPL clubs voted unanimously to incorporate VAR - primarily because of the enormous financial rewards available and relegation from the top table purely a result of refereeing incompetence rather than the shortcomings of the playing and coaching staff at a club - and alongside FIFA and UEFA's enthusiasm it is definitely here to stay. Is that a good thing for the game as a whole? The likelihood is that cost will restrict VAR as an exclusive privilege to the prestigious leagues of Europe and international competition. But even in England, Spain, Germany and Italy it is simply not viable to extend the technology beyond the top division in each country. So therein football's governing bodies are already cultivating a multi-tier "them and us" attitude, and that is before they turn their attention towards South America and Africa. And its application has already attracted accusations of inconsistency; Man City in particular will rightly bemoan VAR's role in denying their late winner against Spurs for a technically correct but highly-dubious handball yet its audible silence when choosing not to intervene to award City a fairly clear-cut penalty in the same match. What are your thoughts...?


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