A Happy New Year to all our readers.

The New Year is traditionally a time to get into shape and commit to new resolutions and it would appear the FA is no different by confirming that Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system technology would be utilised for the first time in last night’s FA Cup 3rd round match between Brighton and Crystal Palace and in one of the Carabao Cup semi-final ties and the subsequent final.

A VAR is effectively an assistant referee who has the ability to review and replay elements of a match on a computer screen.  The VAR can then assist (or overrule) the referee in order to reach the right decision.

Sport Shorts has previously published a guide to the VAR technology that can only be used in respect of four “match-changing incidents”, namely:

  • The award of goals;
  • Penalty or no penalty;
  • Direct red cards (not for second yellow cards); and
  • Cases of mistaken identity.

The first match in this country to have the use of VAR available was not without incident after Brighton’s Glenn Murray bundled in an 87th minute winner with a number of Palace player’s protesting to the referee that Murray had handled the ball in the process of scoring.

As such it was open to referee Andre Mariner to discuss the decision to award the goal with the VAR, which he did, through his earpiece. VAR Neil Swarbrick, sitting in the headquarters of Premier League Productions, was satisfied that the goal should stand and as such, no ‘official review’ using the pitch side monitors was required.

Interestingly, both players and managers accepted the decision of the VAR and referee Mariner after the match. Whether this would have been the same had they known the decision had not been reviewed will never be known, but less contentious outcomes was always going to be the goal (no pun intended) of the VAR system.

The trialling of the VAR system during this year’s FA and Carabao Cups will almost certainly lead to its wider use subject to any obvious flaw that may arise, though this seems unlikely given the extent of the trials to date.

Its introduction to the Premier League would no doubt have seen Fernando Llorente’s goal for Tottenham against Swansea City last week scratched off and the decision by referee Mike Riley to award West Bromwich Albion a penalty against Arsenal for a handball by Calum Chambers overturned; a decision that cost Arsenal two points.

The use of such technology will always be controversial in all sports. Only this weekend one can contrast the correct the decision to send off Joe Marler in Harlequins’ defeat by Sale in rugby’s Premiership after the referee reviewed the incident with the TMO, with complaints by England cricket’s Jonny Bairstow that the use of such technology is “messing” with player’s careers.

The aim of using the technology is always to make sport less controversial than leaving the making of such significant decisions solely in the hands of the ‘on-field’ official who for any number of reasons may not be best placed to do so. It is difficult argue that it won’t.

Whilst purists will maintain there is no need for the introduction of VARs in football it is clear from the development of such officials in other sports that it was inevitable a place was required for the increased use of technology in the beautiful game.