FOR THE second time this season a West Ham player has been cleared after being sent off.
First in February it was Tomas Soucek who was relieved to be told the referee had made a wrong decision and then this week it was Fabian Balbuena.
Each time after the referee had consulted a touchline screen link with VAR.
Cynical refereeing judgment perhaps played a part. But it is the current system of pressurising refs by implication that warrants the equivalent of a red card.
The Stockley Park mob, blinking in front of an array of screens, may get more offsides right although, goodness knows, they often do so to the fury of people who don’t see any sense in arms or shirt sleeves being involved.
The refereeing itself has been poor this season, possibly the worst I have seen in the Premier League.
No doubt there will be statistics that prove me wrong but, subjectively, I can remember no time when the whistle was so out of tune with the game.
VAR was sold to us as a way of perfecting decisions.
These two red cards alone proved the opposite: not until the refs were requested to look at the screen did sendings off seem even a possibility.
Especially since both the incidents took place right in front of the ref’s own eyes.
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But despite that, both took the VERY broad hint from Stockley Park — and thrust out red cards to the amazement of the players and disgust of millions of viewers.
Of the Balbuena incident against Chelsea, manager David Moyes said the decision was 'rank, rotten', adding: 'I think it’s been made by somebody who has never played the game.'
And, yes, he’s absolutely right. VAR never played a game and never will.
Anger at London Stadium or in any other quarter in no way excuses the death threat to Mike Dean, who has sent off seven players so far this season, or anyone else. Such stupidity only redirects sympathy.
Referees are bound to make mistakes, most of us are grown-up enough to understand that, and VAR was intended to take some of the weight of responsibility from their shoulders.
It has, a little, but its replacement is fury at some of the rubbish meant to be impartial judgment.
Crazy offside rulings are one thing, unwarranted sending off of players is quite another.
To Soucek, it was defamation. Our midfielder had not previously been sent off in more than 200 games and there he was walking off the pitch after a pure accident. It was Dean who sent him to the stands at Fulham.
His career is studded with such incidents, including another involving my club in 2017 when his dismissal of Sofiane Feghouli was rescinded.
Six out of the seven of our more recent appeals have been accepted, although four of those were pre-VAR, facts which imply that things are no better and no worse than they were.
Refs spurred by VAR seem more willing to show yellow cards, many for tackles that once were taken for granted.
So far this season in the Premier League no fewer than 955 have been flourished, many justified but some laughable.
Paul Tierney is averaging no less than four in 20 games, and here’s a stat if you like, Martin Atkinson has awarded an average 0.09 penalties a game to Anthony Taylor’s 0.48.
Penalties, obviously cannot be rescinded.
VAR’s influence is now so great that 108 have been awarded and the record number for a season is going to be burst wide open. West Ham have had only a measly three.
Football isn’t about justice, we know. But neither is trial by television.
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