Football today is bigger than the stadium that hosts the match. It’s no longer the sport for the 60,000 who march up the High Road. We’re now extras to the show.
Football is a game that has continually evolved.
However, despite the changes and amendments, the fundamental principle remains the same. The team that scores the most goals wins. Goals decide matches. This is why they’re the most difficult part of the game and why the greatest players are always judged to be those at the other end of the pitch. Goals change games and lives.
The weight of a goal is why football changes. They’re too important to be left to chance or individual opinion. Goals are why football, centuries after it was first played, continues to be changed. Football is always looking to clarify, tighten up, justify and legalise the “goal”. It’s the one thing in football that matters. It’s pretty much all that matters. Goals are football.
In 1882, a glorious year for football, Sheffield FC and Queens Park went with the crazy idea to start using a crossbar. Up until that point it was a string, but before that there was nothing but interpretation. A goal could be scored, and of course argued about, by smashing the ball 20-30 feet in the air. Had Soldado been around then, he’d have ruled the world.
Nets arrived 10 years later and were first used in the 1892 FA Cup final. Football had its goal frame and net. Surely the act of scoring a goal was done. Of course, it wasn’t.
Throughout the years more and more innovations, rule changes and modifications were made. As teams continued to chase the dragon of scoring a goal, so the rules had to be changed to match. Attacking players were granted more protection, offside laws have been changed, deleted, amended and rewritten.
Then in 1992 the law changed again as teams were becoming better and better at not conceding. The act of scoring had dropped, with Italia 90 perhaps the halcyon days of negativity. Football shifted again to encourage goals.
This shifted the sport again.
Football was now fun and at its highest level accessible. Stadiums became safe for families who spend money and subscription TV had everything you needed. Football, a religion, became entertainment with multiple camera angles, heat maps and expert insight. But there’s a problem.
For all the tech and stats, there was an issue. In the middle of a pitch is a middle-aged man. One man who not only has to spend 90 minutes chasing 22 professional athletes, but then make instant game changing decisions. Adding to the already impossible task is the fact that each of these 22 men aren’t normal humans, they’ve been engineered to win at all costs. Data and coaches have created monsters who exist only to score. The man in middle couldn’t keep up. It was almost unfair to see them try.
Over the last few years football panel shows have become nothing more than a public execution of a referee. Incorrect refereeing decisions are the main topic from MOTD through to talk radio phones-ins. Phrases such as “you’ve seen em given” or “it all comes around at some point” became part of the script for players who didn’t want to upset the FA. Managers who’ve spent their entire lives working to this point, were now having careers ruined by a guess.
Something had to change. That change was VAR.
Football today is bigger than the stadium that hosts the match. It’s no longer the sport for the 60,000 who march up the High Road. We’re now extras to the show. We’re there to add atmosphere and a human face to the emotions happening in living rooms, bars, toilets and trains across the world as people ingest the product.
Is this bad?
Yes of course, but Tottenham is no longer a community club, it’s a global brand. There’s more Spurs fans who’ve never been to White Hart Lane than those that have. In a world of fake news and fake facts, I take heart in knowing that the football I watch now is getting cleaner. Goals are given based on fact, not on a decision by a man who can be swayed by many different factors.
When in 1872 the first referee was used, the path was set. Someone must decide what’s a goal and what isn’t, and if you have the technology available, it must be used. VAR isn’t ruining football, it’s simply removing the ambiguity.
With goals being so valuable and the general public having access to all the tech, relying on a man and his assistants is as outdated as discussing whether a ball 20-30 feet in the air was a goal. With the technology available, allowing the human element to rule a football match makes no sense.
If you think VAR removes the emotion in football, simply scroll through Twitter. Head over to YouTube and check out a vlog from the game or watch the reactions of the players. Spurs went from despair to joy, City took the opposite route. The drama it’s added to these two games versus City have made VAR, but for the best of reasons. It amended two errors made by the on field officials.
City had scored an illegal goal that would’ve stood. Spurs would’ve lost a massive point at a ground where very few teams will get anything. VAR has final say in what is a goal. Being correct is worth more than personal emotion. It’s harsh, but your emotions are worth very little in the grand scheme of a goal being a goal. Football is too big now for one man to carry the weight and importance of a goal.