Feature: Could VAR Soon Be Implemented Across All English Football Leagues?
Even when first announced Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was met with mixed opinions, seemingly half the country suggesting it's a natural progression football must take, with Frank Lampard's 2010 'Ghost Goal' against Germany a frequent example of 'the need for updated technology', while others proclaimed it goes against basic football foundations - 'the referees word goes'.
Looking back on VAR's first season in the Premier League, views continue to be split; on one hand the technology provides clear, helpful replays of 'serious in-game incidents' to VAR officials (situated away from the stadium) who then give feedback via a two-way radio, to the active referee. However the excessive time it takes for decisions to be made disrupts the flow of the game, while others suggest the excitement of football is being lost, with fans becoming increasingly aware not to celebrate goals in the fear VAR will eventually see them disallowed.
Although there's been widespread improvements since the start of the 2019/20 season, VAR remains a delicate subject, especially when considering its potential implementation into footballs lower and non-leagues in the not so distant future. The FA continually stresses the importance for English football to continue to lead the way across the pyramid, and if such a standard is to be kept technology must be adapted, surely?
It's very likely VAR will be introduced to the Championship within the next few years, with the league already colossal in size, boasting 24 clubs ranging from £10 million (Charlton) to £89 million (Fulham) in value. Despite this however, former EFL Chief Shaun Harvey has expressed his concenrs toward the potential introduction of VAR in the Championship setting: "It has its attractions but we don't have the TV cameras in place that are standard fare now at Premier League clubs.
"One of our bigger concerns, ultimately, is around match officials and the staffing of it. We need the best officials we have got out live on a Saturday afternoon with a whistle or a flag, we need to keep as many of them active in those roles for as long as possible. The primary focus has got to be getting them out into the middle."
When goal-line technology was introduced to the Premier League in the 2013/14, it cost footballs governing bodies £300,000 per club, while clubs had to pay £15,000 for 'hawk-eye' (the technology used within goal-technology) testing to former FIFA president Sepp Blatter. With VAR estimated to be around £700,000 to implement at each club, considering all the cameras and communication equipment needed, it's likely clubs once more paid out for some amount of testing, something not necessarily feasible for smaller clubs.
For example, in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Non-League Frome Town raised £20,000 via a crowdfunder campaign, money crucial toward the clubs survival during the lack of football and business within hospitality. It should also be considered that Bury FC were expelled from League 1 in 2019, crushed by the weight of their financial debts, while Bolton's fate would have been similar, if it wasn't for a last minute takeover. Expenditure within VAR would not be feasible for the vast majority of English clubs, and for many is not perceived as a necessity for English football to continue to thrive.