Big Football Supporters Survey Confirms VAR Threatens to Diminish Interest in the Game

Addressing VAR’s Poor Application

The introduction of VAR was meant to bring transparency and accountability to football. To both make sure justice was done on the pitch and considering the millions of pounds swilling around in English football, especially in the betting industry, ultimately provide a safeguard to corruption.

VAR is ultimately technology to help officials do their jobs, unfortunately it’s the human element in the chain of decision making – the application of VAR – that has provided frustration and incompetence few could have anticipated.

MOMS is a member of the Football Supporter Association (FSA), and at the last Annual General Meeting, MOMS tabled the notion for the FSA to have regular consultation with PGMOL (the body that runs the application of VAR) in order for supporters to be part of the conversation and get across supporters concerns and insights from their own experiences of VAR.

Also, at the AGM, a working group on VAR was finally set up to process a fan survey on VAR, after the Covid-19 period had slowed the process of finalising such action.

MOMS standpoint on VAR is ‘less is more’, and that transparency and clarity in decision making needs to addressed before the next season. Having been in attendance for a couple of FSA meetings with Mike Riley and PGMOL over the past few months, MOMS had asked Riley about whether the transparent process Rugby utilises has been up for discussion. The answer was that nothing is off the table at this stage and such a process has been trialed in the MLS (and the Australian league). Not the kind of definitive answer, you’d have hoped for.

Key from a supporter point of view in terms of VAR’s application is how it impacts on the spontaneous nature of football. The emotion and exuberance of celebrating goals has been tempered somewhat. Now, you nervously wait a good 30 seconds after the ball hits the back of the net to feel that your team has 100% scored the goal. The failure to understand what ‘clear and obvious’ actually means, when it comes to overturning decisions, has hugely compromised the application of VAR in that respect. The definition of what hand ball actually is in today’s game is increasingly unclear and judging offside decisions by millimetres, off parts of the body that should be irrelevant has become pedantic.

FSA VAR Survey Results

The main findings of the FSA VAR Survey undertook by over 33,000 supporters were released this week, with the full details to be published soon.

The headline stat of the largest survey of its kind, was more than four out of ten fans say they will attend fewer games in future due to the effect VAR is having on the game.

It was almost unanimous that VAR had made watching football less enjoyable – the main reasons were the removal of the spontaneous joy of goal celebrations (95%), and the impact of delays; 86% of TV viewers and 91% of match-goers stated that VAR decisions are generally not resolved in a reasonable amount of time.

Taking all things into consideration, only 26% of those polled said they supported the use of VAR.

The FSA stated that more than a third of those respondents (39%) who had been Premier League season ticket holders before COVID-19 hit said they were likely to attend fewer games in future as a result of the impact that VAR was having on the game. Although, considering the nature of buying a season ticket being an ‘all or nothing’ type of arrangement, there can’t be too much credence afforded to that, compared to a fan who buys their tickets individually.

Fans have proven in the past that they are not necessarily against all technology, with 97% of respondents being in favour of goalline technology, which provides near-instant results.

Other key stats from the survey include:

  • Around half of those who responded had experienced VAR in-stadium (55%)
  • Just over three quarters of fans (77%) were of the opinion that referees needed to take the time to more clearly explain VAR decisions to those in the stadium
  • A similar proportion (78%) agreed that other sports are better suited to the use of video referees/umpires than football is.
  • Two thirds of fans (63%) are not in favour of using VAR in competitions where it won’t be used in every game, such as in the FA Cup or EFL Cup in lower league grounds.
  • Only 13% of fans believe that VAR has improved the overall accuracy of refereeing decisions
  • Just 4% of fans think VAR has had a positive impact on the team they support, 78% think it’s been more negative.

Who completed the survey?

  • A total of 33,243 fans responded to the survey, which ran online from 29th March to 12th April.
  • The majority of fans (51%) were aged between 25 and 44; under 25s were represented by 13% of respondents while just 6% were over 65.
  • 33% of respondents identified as home season ticket holders, with 21% being regular away match attenders (6 or more away games in a normal pre-COVID season)
  • A further 23% were regular home matchgoers; while 15% were non-matchgoers
  • 86% of respondents supported a Premier League club

What now?

The results of the survey will given to the Premier League who are undergoing a similar consultation of players and managers to make improvements to the technology from next season.

1 COMMENT

  1. “Just 4% of fans think VAR has had a positive impact on the team they support, 78% think it’s been more negative”
    Does this really mean that almost everyone thinks that the decisions have gone against them? If so, it’s like those stats about “95% of the population think that they are a better than average driver” etc.

    If most people think that, objectively, it makes the game less fun though, then I would agree. If the system is supposed to make things more scientific and evidence based, they really should have done the scientific thing and used some evidence. I.e. test it properly pre-season, or at least assess it after the first dozen games or so. If a better, perhaps even more techy, system arises in the future then lets use that, but for now lets limit it to things like off the ball fouls and so on.

    I can’t imagine we would have kept this for the whole season if fans were in the stadia to make these points in person.

What do you think? Comment...