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Is it time for VAR to migrate into the EFL?

The 2019/2020 season was VAR's maiden appearance in the Premier League. This came after clubs voted unanimously for it to be introduced back in November 2018. There has been copious occasions of controversy since being implemented, with many questioning the subjective rules and processes. There are too many instances of mistakes and bad decisions to mention, but there is no doubt that it has still revolutionised the way the game is played at the top level. So the leading question is, should VAR be extended into the Football League in the near future? It would then be able to help referees lower down the pyramid ensure that they make the correct and logical decision in key moments?

Technology is a thing of the present and the future in the world but particularly in sport. VAR was perhaps a requisite of questionable offsides and penalty decisions, something that the EFL is still prone to. Other sports already had technology to aid affairs before VAR, such as TMO in Rugby and Third Umpire in Cricket. VAR incorporated some components of both to develop a Video Assistant Referee that tries to stop incorrect decisions being made that was altering outcomes of matches that had a lot on the line.

This is despite some clear and obvious errors that the PGMOL has addressed and attempted to rectify by slightly changing the way VAR operates. And the overall public opinion I'm sure will be very mixed if EFL clubs were asked if they think VAR should be introduced into each and every game.

One instance that occurred just this previous weekend offers itself to be favourable towards having VAR because of a questionable decision. Whilst refereeing a West Midlands derby on Friday night, James Linington awarded the Blues a penalty as he deemed Baggies defender Kipre to foul forward Miyoshi. This sparked somewhat of an outcry on social media, and not just from West Brom fans, as many concluded that it should never have been a penalty. Even the players and fans all around the stadium at the time seem dumbfounded by the decision, on both sides. Birmingham scored the penalty and it changed the tide of the contest, giving Birmingham a lifeline in a game they were losing. They then went on to win 3-1 and even their second goal might have been given offside if VAR was present at St. Andrews. Albion fans will feel hard done by, but things like this works both ways. Their draw away at Leeds earlier on in the season could easily have been a 1-0 loss as Brandon Thomas-Asante seemed to handle the ball as Molumby's shot deflected off him and into the net.

But the fact of the matter is that these decisions could be reviewed and the correct decision can come as a result, even if the referee initially gets it wrong. EFL clubs do not have this luxury as of yet and it could become incredibly frustrating for fans when they feel they could have got a result out of the game. Essentially, it is changing the outcome of where a team finishes in the league. Referees are continually coming under huge scrutiny for decisions that they are making, but with technology on their side, things could improve. In the 2021/2022 season, VAR was used in the EFL playoff finals at Wembley for the first time because the EFL didn't want controversy on the biggest stage. So, surely it is only a matter of time before it is integrated into all matches, assuming that the PGMOL and EFL can work together to recruit staff to conduct VAR during all EFL games. It is an interesting talking point and it will be intriguing to see what happens going forward in all facets of the game, including how it continues to evolve in the Premier League and hopefully the controversial decisions lessen and decline.

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