First off, congratulations to Liverpool, the best team in at least Britain this year by a country mile. A great triumph, I’m delighted that it wasn’t the case in 1971.
Second, there are more important things around at the moment in the world, but the empty stadiums have somehow managed to magnify and accentuate the dire problems that football governing bodies are creating for themselves right now.
I have always loved football, even when I didn’t know better and had a Man City kit as a small kid because I liked the light blue top. That was when Man City had no money and were rubbish. How times change. My Dad supported QPR, what was I to do? Follow his lead or follow my own path?
Then Charlie George changed my football life.
I have never been to an FA Cup final, but oh boy the 1971 final, Arsenal v Liverpool, would have been the one to cash in a pile of tickets to go and see. Charlie George was majestic that day, imperious, commanding, spraying dangerous passes from midfield, buccaneering forward to let off a few long range rockets.
And then the Snow Angel Moment.
In extra time after he’d lashed home what proved to be the winner. Collapsing on the floor spreadeagled, his unspoken words, Yup, that’s how goood I am. Captivating.
That was the moment. When I became a Gooner.
My love for the club has not diminished over the years, it has kept strong, helped by the merry band of Henry & Co. and despite agonising dips and painful moments (I give you the Champions League final). They have often done stuff the hard way – That Moment in 1989 is one of the best examples. If you’re going to do it at all, please make sure you leave it more or less to the final kick of the game. Nick Hornby, take a bow for capturing the pain and the ecstasy.
My choice was rewarded by the footballing Gods when Charlie was the Legend on my Legends Tour of the Emirates. (Awesome! Like being a kid again.)
So, what’s my problem?
Three nasty little letters. V. A. R.
And two words: Handball and Offside (the main VAR issues).
My cosy little arrangement with Arsenal to scare me to death watching them – often in glorious failure – is being torpedoed by these things.
The equation is straightforward:
Football is a sport played by and refereed by human beings (for now). Human beings make mistakes. What to do about that?
The answer is not to use technology to eliminate EVERY SINGLE MISTAKE ON THE PITCH EVER. Ask Sheffield United about the Hawkeye goal-line technology (I am a fan of that tech which had been faultless until the recent debacle against Villa, but it supports my point: nothing is infallible).
That means the Powers That Be, bless them, need to get a grip before they kill the game as a spectacle.
VAR is purportedly there to get rid of stupid, obvious errors, not to take five or more minutes to pore over a video fifty times to see if one pubic hair of an attacker was in an offside position.
I guarantee that normal fans do not give a damn. Offered a choice of 100% accuracy against a free-flowing game, they would absolutely go for free-flowing. The issue that needs to be grappled with and put into a locked box on the ocean floor is that the game is the important thing, not the micro-millimetres…The argument that the money in the game makes it important to get it faultless is misguided: any cock-ups wash out over time, just get rid of obvious howlers…(If they’re not obvious, it’s not a howler.)
Yes, VAR is fledgling technology, but it is how it is applied that is the disaster area (not how it is said that it is applied).
Give the VAR referee say twenty seconds (and some Prozac: no pressure) to review an incident. If they can’t say it’s a clear and obvious error, then play on.
Until then, I will keep an avuncular eye on My Boys, but at a distance. I’ll keep my Red membership, I’ll watch them but VAR has turned off the excitement:
Gooooooal! Celebrate! Over-rule. Wait to celebrate then. Look over your shoulder after scoring, wait for it, wait for it…Maybe celebrate now? As a fan, that does not work, waiting to be told that it’s OK to yell…It’s all about the immediate adrenalin rush, not being given permission to get excited.
My BT Sport subscription: Cancelling.
My Sky Sports subscription: Cancelling.
Match of the Day when things normalise more: Maybe every now and again to see if the boredom has abated.
Sad but true. I don’t want perfection, unless it’s in the form of a Charlie George screamer, not grey suits sweating not to make a mistake over the odd pixel.