Imagine the scene: It is a not too distant future. The World Cup final. England v Germany (I did say imagine). The scores are level at 1-1 when in the dying seconds, England win a corner. The ball is swung in, Harry Kane rises...AND SCORES! THEY'VE DONE IT! 60 YEARS OF HURT BANISHED IN A MOMENT OF...oh, but wait, hang on, put the champagne back on ice, let's just check VAR to be absolutely sure.
OK, so it may not be England in the final, but the rest of this scenario is very much a possibility if Wednesday night's FA Cup tie between Tottenham and Rochdale is an indication for the future for football.
The first half in particular was embarrassing, comical, but most worryingly of all, it was genuinely damaging to spectators' enjoyment of the match. It felt like we were spending more time watching referee Paul Tierney with his finger glued to his ear than actual football, and no matter how many times VAR makes a correct decision, that cannot be a good thing.
Doesnt matter what the result is, VAR is making the best game in the world and the game we love so much degenerate into a farce. Just a mockery of a game.— osvaldo ardiles (@osvaldooardiles) February 28, 2018
When Spurs seemingly took an early lead through Erik Lamela, there didn't seem to be any issue, and both players had lined up for the restart and the goal announced by Spurs' Twitter account. After more than a minute of consultation from the referee, however, the goal was disallowed, much to the disbelief of everyone in the ground.
On the replay there didn't look to be much wrong with the goal, and thus lies another problem with VAR: every single goal will now be analysed and over-analysed until officials convince themselves that there is some minor infringement, in this instance an arm on a Rochdale defender from Fernando Llorente which certainly didn't look strong enough to be a foul.
Thus spectators will feel unable to fully celebrate until the VAR confirmation has gone through, completely ruining that unique moment of spontaneous joy that follows a goal.
1st time at a live game when #VAR was in use. Total shambles for the fans in the stadium. I would genuinely ask for a refund if I bought a ticket. Destroys the atmosphere & spectacle of the game. If done right could be a fantastic addition but in its current form it’s disgraceful— Wayne Henderson (@W_Hendo) March 1, 2018
The rest of the first half was littered with further incidents: A Spurs free-kick being overruled to become a penalty, the penalty being disallowed, Heung-min Son being booked seemingly for simply not knowing the rules...and all along, the fans inside the stadium appeared to have no idea what was going on.
It is worth bearing in mind that for all the criticism of the VAR system the referee is the man ultimately responsible for the final decisions, and Tierney did not cover himself in glory on this occasion.
He seemed over-reliant on the technology rather than being confident in his own decisions, his hand constantly pressed to the side of his head like somebody suffering from chronic earache. The idea when VAR was introduced, that it should only be used to correct 'clear and obvious mistakes' rather than make minor judgement calls, seemed to have escaped his head. Perhaps he was using his hand to cover the hole.
His final humiliation came when he failed to use common sense by attempting to use vanishing spray to draw a line for a free kick on a pitch already blanketed in snow, an incident which rather nicely summed up the farcical nature of the evening. So perhaps VAR could be used more effectively by a referee with, no offence to Tierney, more experience and know-how.
Nevertheless, as the debate will continue to rumble on over the coming weeks, surely the time has to come where we have to consider scrapping the system altogether. Sometimes a good idea simply cannot be implemented properly, and although we must applaud the powers that be for attempting to improve the sport, there is a strong case to be put forward that VAR should go the same way as vuvuzelas and the silver goal rule: something that was fun for a while, but ultimately not worth keeping in the long-term.
The first half of this game in particular was a fantastic game of football, with both teams giving it a go and entertaining those who had dared to come out and braved the sub-zero temperatures, yet this has all largely been forgotten due to the VAR controversy.
When technology overshadows the actual sport, that is when we should seriously consider its future, and one can only wonder how long this experiment can go on for before everyone in football decides enough is enough.