The level of refereeing has reached an all-time low, it’s time we looked at some more radical solutions to the problem.
As yet another weekend of football descended into VAR chaos, purists looked back wistfully at a golden age when the refereeing was just bad, rather than so mystifying you’d need to do a Masters degree in Psychology to explain what Martin Atkinson was thinking.
VAR is football’s Brexit. Its advocates promised a brighter era where referees were liberated from the toxic blame game and we could focus on the real highlights.
Instead, we now spend even more time analysing where VAR was used badly and blaming the refs for that – it’s almost as if human nature can’t be corrected by technology.
Whatever side of the debate you were on when it was first introduced, it is safe to say that nobody signed up for this, so it’s time we took action before Atkinson rules out a goal for thinking about being offside.
Granted, some of these options may sound extreme and untested, but at least they’d stop us talking about VAR for a bit.
The honour system
For the vast majority of football played around the world, there is no referee at all. The system works on the principle that in a game of football if someone is being enough of a twat someone will intervene and give the ball to the other team for a free-kick.
Obviously, at first, we can expect some teething problems as defenders line up to hack at Salah’s shins and Sergio Aguero is mowed down by an actual lawnmower driven by Luka Milivojevic grinning and making a ball gesture with his hands.
But, after a few weeks of unchecked sh**housery the players will start to regulate themselves and Jamie Vardy catching the ball when offside by an inch and handing it to the opposition defence with a wry grin will become a commonplace sight.
In the unlikely event that the honour system doesn’t pan out, the simple solution is to go full Mean Machine because we can all agree that there’s nothing we can’t learn from the Vinnie Jones classic.
Instead of trying to uphold the rules, we simply get rid of them and let the 22 gladiators beat the shit out of each other for the baying crowd.
There’ll be no more quibbling about marginal offside calls because there will be no offside. Instead, the after-match analysis will be about cumulatively how many teeth the Man City team have left and when they will finally scrape Wilfried Zaha off the pitch at Selhurst Park.
Sam Allardyce will suddenly be the most in-demand manager in the Premier League and will assemble a title-winning team, lifting the Premier League trophy high above his head before knocking Pep Guardiola out with it.
Make your case
Alternatively, if we’re going to delay the game for VAR, then why not do it properly?
When a decision is disputed we should break the game completely and the two managers should have time to prepare their case with a team of legal representatives.
As the fans sit in enforced exam condition silence, the gaffers will pen an impassioned yet legally sound case citing precedents and the key clauses in the rules.
When Sean Dyche and Jurgen Klopp have submitted their 450-page dossiers, they will present their case to a judge who will deliver a verdict within several hours, subject to appeal.
Sure, some games will go on for days, if not weeks, but at least we will know for sure that the right decision has been made. Probably…
A big roulette wheel
Some people are already calling the use of VAR a lottery, so why not own it?
Whenever a team appeals for VAR to be used, a big Wheel of Fortune style roulette wheel is spun with various options ranging from ‘Penalty’ through to ‘Score reset to 0-0’.
For a few weeks angry fans will rail against the system, especially Man City supporters aggrieved at seeing a 4-0 lead squandered in seconds in search of a fifth goal, or Newcastle fans who believe they’ve gone 1-0 up but instead see the wheel instruct Allan Saint-Maximin to spend the rest of the game wearing a top hat.
But, in the end, fans will come to accept that the wheel is part of the game and that it’s all part of the strategy a manager has to employ.