Strap yourself in, because the Premier League will soon be fired into the 21st century.
Following a meeting between officials, clubs have finally agreed in principle to introduce video assistant referees (VAR) to the top flight from the 2019/20 season – just seven months after they initially refused to adopt the technology.
The move follows a series of “non-live” trials during this season as well as VAR’s overall success at the 2018 World Cup and brings the Premier League in line with Serie A and the Bundesliga who have already implemented it.
While this news will be scant consolation to Charlie “Parklife” Austin at this precise moment in time, we’re certain many players and managers will embrace the incoming VAR which will help referees make the right calls and ensure better fairness in the division.
Changing the world one interview at a time! 😂
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) November 15, 2018
But not everybody will be happy. As we’re all aware, some players profit from their ability to bend/cheat the rules (delete as appropriate) and video technology could well put an end to all of that for good.
So, who are the players who will find the introduction of video referees a VARking nightmare?
Where else to start other than the Tottenham tumbler himself? Dele is joint top of the Premier League diving table having picked up three bookings for simulation since 2015/16 – not to mention the multiple dubious penalties he’s also won in that time.
The arrival of VAR will further highlight Dele’s “creative” playing style, forcing him to actually start playing the game honestly. And when that day comes, it won’t just be himself it affects – it would also spell trouble for his club and international captain…
Combine Kane’s own limp-legged falls with the amount they profit from Dele’s behaviour in the penalty area and, by our conservative estimates, the amount of spot-kicks Spurs earn will drop by approximately 97.3%.
That most certainly would not be good news for Kane, who has scored a whopping 14 Premier League penalties since August 2015. So should VAR have the positive impact everyone is hoping it will, there’s a good chance Kane can say goodbye to those Golden Boots from next season onwards.
“I don’t know what to say anymore. I feel like before anyone gets a red card I’ll have to get my leg broken. This is why I lose my head. Some of the yellow cards… It’s like, why am I getting different treatment to other players? I just don’t understand it’s every week, every referee.”
They are the words of Zaha from earlier this season, criticising the unpunished rough treatment he receives from opposition. But let’s not pretend Zaha hasn’t got his own reputation for trying to fool officials.
Joining Dele Alli at the top of the diving table, Zaha has also earned himself three bookings for diving since 2015/16 and last season was left sweating on the possibility of a retrospective ban after his antics against Bournemouth. And only a few weeks ago did a questionable penalty decision go in his favour, after leaping into Granit Xhaka’s outstretched leg during Crystal Palace’s draw against Arsenal.
Given the tough marking Zaha has to put up with, VAR may end up vastly benefitting him – so long as he cuts out the diving as well.
Surely the winner of the 2018 Fallon d’Floor award for his epic turf trip against Shakhtar Donetsk, Sterling will get no such benefits from next year with VAR also set to be introduced into the Champions League as well.
The rapid winger has also been booked a couple of times for simulation in the Premier League, earning himself the unwanted reputation as one of the league’s biggest feigners. That reputation may only get worse for Sterling should blades of grass continue to prove such an tricky opponent of his.
You may think this is a little harsh on the England’s newest debutant, but bear with us. Back in 2015, Wilson came under fire for winning 10 – ten! – penalties a single Championship season with Bournemouth, with opposition fans pointing to the high ratio as an indication of playacting.
It appears not much has changed in the intervening three years. It took the speedy striker no fewer than 10 minutes (he must love that number, eh?) in his international debut against the United States to go down in the box, but fans were having none of it:
Weird international debit for Callum Wilson. Missed sitter, tried to dive for a penalty and just elbowed a bloke in the head.
— Sam Cook (@CookSamJ) November 15, 2018
— Brian Clifford (@Cliffo1981) November 15, 2018
So as much as I like Callum Wilson, is nobody going to address his blatant attempt at cheating last night?? It was a massive dive! Pundits are such hypocritical people.. Perhaps because he was 🏴🏴
— Craig Bradshaw (@MrCraigBradshaw) November 16, 2018
There is no doubt VAR is going to change the face of the Premier League and shake up the matchday experience for players, fans and officials alike in 2019 and beyond. Technology is certain to help referees make the right call more often, but as we know from previous experience it’s not always foolproof.
If only there were other ways to instantly improve refereeing standards in the Premier League…