Threat to The Integrity of Professional Soccer: VAR Scandal

Written by on October 8, 2023

Montclair, NJ

By: Luis Enrique

In a Premier League showdown between the top two teams, Liverpool and Tottenham, an unprecedented error was made by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). This mistake was not only a first in Premier League history but also a significant event in professional soccer worldwide. Since the introduction of VAR, there have been numerous debates about whether this new system challenges the integrity of the game. The system was established to minimize human error and promote fairness, but it hasn’t lived up to expectations. In fact, many fans are calling for its removal from professional soccer. After a lackluster previous season, both teams have started strong this year, securing wins that have placed them at the top of the table. However, VAR once again proved to be a game-changer, impacting the outcome of the match between these two sides.

The match took place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Saturday, September 30th, and was anticipated to be one of the season’s highlights, with both teams entering the game undefeated. Liverpool was the first to score, thanks to an excellent finish by Luis Dias. However, the assistant referee deemed the goal offside. The game continued, but it was soon realized by VAR that Luis Dias was onside and the goal should have been awarded to Liverpool. Despite this, neither VAR nor the referee halted the game. In the 36th minute, Son Heung-min scored for Tottenham. Liverpool retaliated with a goal from Diego Jota in the 69th minute. Liverpool had to play the majority of the match a man down after Curtis Jones was shown a red card in the first half. The situation worsened when Diego Jota also received a red card in the 69th minute. Despite these setbacks, Liverpool was able to defend their goal. However, an own goal from Joel Matip in the final minutes of added time secured the three points for Tottenham.

What perhaps frustrates Liverpool fans is not just the VAR error, but also the potential impact this game could have on the rest of the season for both teams. In the Premier League, finishing one place higher or lower at the end of the season can mean a significant difference in earnings for the teams. Not to mention, only the top four teams qualify for the Champions League, which is another substantial source of income for these elite soccer clubs. If Luis Dias’ goal had been allowed, the game might have taken a completely different turn. Whether this will affect Liverpool’s performance for the rest of the season is yet to be seen.

The referees’ governing body, Professional Game Match Officials Ltd. (PGMOL), has labeled the incident as a “significant human error”. This raises the question: can human error ever be completely eliminated from the game when there are humans in the VAR control room overseeing the equipment? Many experts don’t attribute the mistake to VAR itself, but rather to the personnel in charge. The consensus is that as long as humans are involved in the game, errors will occur, and this has been part of the sport since its inception. Liverpool’s manager, Jurgen Klopp, suggested that the match should be replayed, although he acknowledged that such a request is far from becoming a reality. He also pointed out that if this match were to be replayed, other teams might demand the same treatment. Whether PGMOL will take drastic measures to improve VAR remains to be seen.

While many fans are calling for the ban of VAR in professional soccer, others believe that the issue lies not with VAR itself, but with the humans operating the system. What is undeniable is that such errors are unacceptable, especially in what is widely regarded as the world’s top soccer league. As of now, PGMOL has not taken any action beyond acknowledging the error. There are still many unanswered questions, but one thing is clear: the occurrence of such errors in professional soccer poses a threat to the integrity of the sport.