Fans have their say: Is it time for the Premier League to scrap VAR?
EPL

Fans have their say: Is it time for the Premier League to scrap VAR?

Jun 4, 2024

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Premier League clubs are set to debate the future of the much-maligned video assistant referee system during Thursday’s annual general meeting.

A vote is expected to follow to determine whether the technology is immediately ditched or maintained in some form. VAR will be scrapped if 14 of the 20 clubs competing in the 2024-25 Premier League season vote against its use.

The Football Supporters’ Association has urged Premier League clubs to consult their fans before debating VAR, and theScore attempted to contact over 100 Premier League supporter organizations that are affiliated or associated with the FSA to hear their views.

The VAR discussion was triggered when Wolverhampton Wanderers submitted a formal proposal to England’s top flight stating that the technology should go. Among the club’s complaints were that VAR raised frustration and confusion in the stands while diluting goal celebrations and spontaneous passion, and that reviews harm the fast pace of the Premier League and override the discourse about the actual sport.

Here are some selected thoughts and survey results from fans before Thursday’s crucial meeting:

Scrap it

Dan Silver – Chelsea Supporters’ Trust

Personally, I hate VAR with a passion. It’s absolutely destroying the game. You can’t make an imperfect game perfect.

Paul Karter – Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust

As a group we have discussed VAR and have written to the club to ask whether they’ll be engaging with supporter groups in advance of the vote.

We polled our members and 66% are in favor of scrapping VAR in its entirety.

We received a reply (from the club) on Friday but it was just an acknowledgement that they had received our letter.

The Foxes Trust’s survey of 830 Leicester City fans

60% of all respondents said VAR should be scrapped completely and that it has spoiled their enjoyment of football.

Another 26% thought it should possibly be scrapped unless improvements were made.

The Foxes Trust has written to Leicester City to present its findings and urge the club to consider its fans’ views. The club was also asked to tell supporters how it voted.

Julian Finney / Getty Images Sport / Getty

West Ham United Supporters’ Trust survey

VAR should be:

Kept as is – 1%

Reformed – 37%

Scrapped completely – 62%

Tom Norris – Ironworks Alliance (West Ham supporters’ group)

Out of the 73 responses we received from our poll, 17 members expressed support for VAR, while 56 members indicated they are against its continuation.

Results from the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust’s poll

A total of 92% voted in favor of scrapping VAR as it is currently used in the Premier League.

However, 56% of those Spurs fans voting would be happy to support the use of VAR if it was restricted to semi-automated offside decisions and nothing else.

… 52% voted in favor of ending the use of VAR regardless of further improvements …

Over 2,000 people were polled. The Trust has been assured that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has read the results prior to the Premier League meeting.

Unsure of VAR’s future

Manchester United Supporters’ Trust poll

A new survey conducted by MUST of 16,226 supporters has near-unanimously (99.4%) called for change on VAR with fewer than 1% supporting keeping the current system.

Match-going fans more strongly want the abolition of VAR than non-match-going supporters, with 51% of match-going reds wanting the system completely gone against 37% of TV viewers.

OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty

Steve Bennett – Nottingham Forest Supporters’ Trust

We, the Trust, have asked our members for their opinions – few have replied but of those who have there is around a 50-50 split between those who want it scrapped and those who wish to retain it but with several improvements; including reduced decision time, consistency, improved communication both during and after use and greater education and training for those who implement it.

Barry Morgan-Smith – Official Ipswich Town FC Supporters’ Club

On the downside, it seems to take ages out of the game and the matches will lose an element of flow and spontaneity. The upside is that blatant cheats who throw themselves about will be punished.

From our point of view, it’s very much suck it and see. I haven’t any idea whether the club has its own view nor what it is. I suspect, as new members of the Premier League, they will share a reluctance to form a definitive view until we have experience of it.

Improve it

Richard Smith – Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association

With the constant tinkering and debate, this seems like we are still in a trial. They should not have brought VAR in until they were confident there would be no room for error, that every eventuality had been considered and worked through. Would you fly in a plane that was still being modified and worked on? VAR should, somehow, have been fully trialed before going ‘live’ and affecting games/points.

But the cat is out of the bag. Once you know you can right wrongs, you can’t go back to accepting them. So we don’t see how it can go back after all the issues that led to wrong decisions are now (we are assured) being addressed and resolved. Doing away with it completely would be a backwards step.

ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP / Getty

Nigel Summers – Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters’ Club

We were grateful to Howard Webb for coming to Sussex and making a presentation to 60 of our members in March 2024. In that presentation he explained changes planned for next season that were broadly well received by members.

That said, members remained unconvinced that the spontaneity of goal celebrations could be maintained by ongoing use of VAR.

We believe our CEO is very much in favor so we anticipate the club will vote against Wolves’ proposal.

Trans Pennine Irons (West Ham fan group in north of England)

We briefly ran a poll where members could add their reasons.

There wasn’t much response but the results were as follows:

Keep VAR – 1%

Scrap VAR – 18%

Amend VAR – 64%

Mike Kempson – South Wales branch of the Everton Supporters’ Club

I don’t think VAR is the issue, it’s the VAR officials at Stockley Park. As a group the majority are in favor (of keeping VAR if it’s better implemented).

Andrew Matthews – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

Simon Kay – Talking Cherries (mental health initiative for Bournemouth fans)

We favor limiting VAR so we can get back to enjoying goal-scoring and more again.

It’s not necessarily the technology that is the issue. It’s the application of it and they keep failing.

Billy Grant – Beesotted (blog, podcast, and more for Brentford fans)

The overarching view is that VAR is used to try and get perfection. We would rather prefer speed, so if a decision is not made in 20 seconds or so, then the decision is too complicated and should go with the ref’s call no matter if it is deemed right or wrong later.

Most say keep VAR but strip back what it is used for.

If it continues to dominate and spoil the live football experience, then many would actually say scrap.

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