The first major piece of research into supporters’ views on the Video Assistant Referee system introduced into the top flight this season found widespread dissatisfaction. The adoption of the technology for all 380 fixtures this season has divided opinion with many pundits warning it is killing the entertainment value of the world’s most popular league.
Today’s survey, conducted by pollsters YouGov, appears to confirm the misgivings are shared in the stands. Of those fans who attend games, 60 per cent said the introduction of VAR has “somewhat” or “significantly” lessened their enjoyment. Almost as many said it had made watching football live on TV less enjoyable.
Almost one in five said VAR made them less likely to go to games, a finding that will alarm clubs already worried about match-day attendances. Only one fan in 10 said VAR should continue in its current form with the majority wanting “improvements” or saying it should be scrapped. Astonishingly, a system designed to remove serious refereeing errors from the game has failed to deliver more accurate decision-making by officials, according to almost half of fans.
Premier League clubs voted unanimously in November 2018 to take up the system from the current season. It involves an official constantly monitoring the game for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents” involving goals, penalty decisions, straight red cards and mistaken identity.
However, there have been complaints about overzealous interventions and slow decision-making from the start.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard called the system a “passion killer” after a goal and a penalty decision were overruled in a game against Burnley. West Ham midfielder Declan Rice said “pretty much” every Premier League player wanted VAR scrapped after what would have been an equalising goal in a match against Sheffield United was overturned.
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho last month said VAR was “killing the best league in the world” after attacker Heung-min Son was shown a red card.