A survey of 2,000 football fans found, despite negative sentiment surrounding VAR in the media, 7 in 10 supporters are in agreement that Video Assistant Referees will have a positive impact on the sport.
In the poll commissioned by Compare.bet, the need for VAR adoption was clear, with 94% of fans admitting to disagreeing with the referee at some point over the course of a game. Only 5% thought referees have an easy job.
Fans also believe that VAR adoption would reduce the impact players have on key refereeing decisions, as 57% think player protests can influence the referee during the game. 81% believe this will be eliminated when VAR is eventually introduced more widely.
Many point to the favourable decisions given by referees to table-topping Premier League clubs as a major injustice in the game, with the majority in agreement that the ‘Big 6’ receive the benefit of the referee’s decisions. This is another issue which fans believe VAR could solve, as 83% also see VAR as a means to level the playing field, resulting in a fairer game for all.
“VAR is one of the most divisive aspects of the modern game. Despite all the media debate, the underlying feeling amongst UK football fans is positive. They understand the pressures and difficulties of the modern game and are open to using technology to support referees,” said a spokesperson for Compare.bet.
Despite overwhelming support for the use of VAR to aid match-changing decisions, the way it’s implemented is still a matter of debate. 7 out of 10 are unhappy with the stoppages required to review video footage, as it often ruins the atmosphere for match-going supporters.
The use cases for VAR could also do with adjustment, according to fans. The current reviewable decisions are goals, penalties, direct red cards and mistaken identity, but fans would like to see other issues such as diving and violent conduct added to this list. These offences are in much higher demand amongst fans in comparison to mistaken identity, which is an extremely rare occurrence in modern football.
The study, conducted via OnePoll.com, also found 76% cent of fans believe the history of football would have been very different if VAR had been in place. In fact, the top football moment supporters would like to go back and use VAR on was revealed to be Maradona’s famous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England at the 1986 World Cup. This was followed by Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal for England against Germany in the 2010 World Cup, and Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland to shatter their 2010 World Cup qualifying dreams.
46% also believe widespread implementation of VAR will spell the end for the fifth official in the Europa and Champions League, which is particularly interesting in light of recent questions surrounding the value of their input into key match-changing decisions.
When asked about the use of video refereeing in other sports, respondents cited Rugby as the best example, followed by Tennis and Cricket.
A spokesperson for Compare.bet added, “With FIFA’s recent approval of VAR for use during World Cup 2018, it’s now more crucial than ever to get fans on side and ensure VAR doesn’t detract from the spectacle of the tournament.”
Top 10 football moments fans would most like to go back and use VAR on:
- Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal for Argentina against England at the 1986 World Cup
- Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal for England against Germany at the 2010 World Cup
- Thierry Henry’s handball for France against Ireland in a 2009 World Cup playoff
- Liverpool’s Luis Suarez’s bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in 2013
- Sol Campbell’s disallowed goal for England against Portugal in the Euro 2004 quarter-finals
- Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs being sent off for handball in 2014, despite the handball being committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
- Pedro Mendes’ disallowed 50-yard goal for Tottenham against Man United in 2005
- Man City’s Ben Thatcher’s elbow on Portsmouth’s Pedro Mendes in 2006
- Luis Garcia’s “Ghost Goal” for Liverpool against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final in 2005
- Holland’s Ronald Koeman’s foul on England’s David Platt in a 1993 World Cup qualifier