If you tuned into Monday Night Football yesterday evening, you know that Sky Sports skewed from their regularly scheduled programming for a change and chose to focus on something else during the show besides the game they were covering: VAR.
VAR (or video assistant referee if you still somehow haven’t gotten that memo) has been a fixture in the Premier League since 2019, following testing in various divisions around the world and the gradual implementation throughout modern football.
You only have to have watched the odd game in the past few years to know that the system isn’t perfect — and that’s putting it mildly — however, that’s like any referee and what most fans have long scratched their heads over is, simply, why it takes VAR so long to make a decision.
Well, after the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) chief and veteran referee, Howard Webb, joined Monday night’s show and revealed the VAR audio and analysed a number of different calls from this season, we now at least have a clearer idea.
This was just one of many clips which provided insight not only into VAR audio and what the referees are hearing as they operate throughout the game, but how decisions are broken down into different stages by the overall team of officials.
As Webb went on to explain, the unprecedented footage depicts how VAR either tries to support or correct the on-field decision from the referee; whether the first official needs to be sent to the screen or not, as well as other aspects such as what might have happened in the build-up.
While it’s been easy to get frustrated with VAR, especially when so much has been kept in the dark about it since its arrival, this was a truly eye-opening look into why it takes so long for referees to make their final calls and just how hard a job they have when it comes to making on-field decisions.
For instance, how on earth would a referee have spotted this and been able to make the right call without the help of VAR?
Now, this is yet another example of VAR working well and demonstrating its value beyond correcting the ‘clear and obvious’ that we were told it was brought in for; without micromanaging the game in this instance, the officials checked the keeper’s complaint back on the replay and found him to be right.
As Webb told the presenters on the night, the goal of VAR is to have “maximum impact with minimum interference”, although Gary Neville did question at what point reviewing moments in the game gets into the realms of “re-refereeing”.
They even showed off occasions when the referees got it wrong on the day, with the 51-year-old stressing that the PGMOL are looking to hold their own more accountable when it comes to incorrect decisions, as we have seen with apologies made to clubs following mistakes more recently.
While some argued that they refrained from showing some of the bigger mistakes during the show, Webb insisted that referees have made a “commitment to be more transparent’ and this is, at the very least, a start.
Again, even detailing how an APP (attacking possession play) factors into the final decision helps combat the confusion that those on the pitch and most of us watching feel when waiting for a VAR check. Moreover, they can’t “sacrifice accuracy for speed”.
As Carragher questioned on the night, there still remains the concern as to whether VAR officials influence decisions before a referee even gets to the monitor, but Webb insisted that they are simply “doing their due diligence by following the process” and that it’s still the ref that makes the final call.
Ultimately, PGMOL have achieved two things by sharing this VAR audio and analysis: firstly, it helped explain why decisions often take a while and secondly, it did the one thing that fans have been asking for since day one — for refs to properly communicate what’s going on and inform rather than confuse.
Neville went on to say that people “need to see this” kind of footage more often and we couldn’t agree more. Thankfully, Webb said, “we’re looking to do this as much as we possibly can” and that there should be greater post-match clarity as more of these clips are shared with the public.
What did you make of it? Was it a fascinating look at one of the most misunderstood parts of the game or simply a PR exercise that did little to remedy some of the biggest complaints this season?
Manchester City’s Matheus Nunes rolls back the years and goes to work at Flat Baker in Ancoats
Manchester City star Matheus Nunes has already impressed many during his short time at the Etihad so far, but he impressed a few more this weekend not with his skills on the pitch but in the kitchen after moonlighting at a popular Manchester bakery, The Flat Baker in Ancoats.
The recent Man City signing might only have the one assist to his name during his time as a Blue thus far, but he’s served up more than a baker’s dozen to local Manc residents thanks to a quick shift as a pastry chef this past weekend.
However, it was by no means his first time in the kitchen, as Nunes revealed that he used to work in a bakery during the earlier days of his footballing career.
Getting put to work on one of The Flat Baker‘s bestsellers, their unbelievably addictive pastel de natas — trust us, they’re utterly sinful these things — the bakery’s owners Débora and her husband, also called Matheus, got the City star back up to speed. You can see the full video here:
That being said, as you can see, the 25-year-old midfielder was a bit of a dab hand after a few goes at it; the fact he not only had prior experience but also shares the same heritage as the bakery’s founders no doubt helped.
Born in Brazil but raised in Portugal — two places where these unmistakable sweet treats are most famous — Nunes explained how he, his mother and English step-father moved to Europe for “a better life” and to help his chances of becoming a footballer.
The former Wolves player went on to explain how he “failed a lot in school” and eventually his mum gave him a choice: “give up football or school, in order to start working”.
Starting out in his godfather’s bakery, he went on to spend a fair bit of time making bread and pastries and even appeared in a similar video back in Portugal after signing for Sporting Lisbon.
Naturally, the trio did eventually touch on football a little bit, with Nunes discussing what it’s like to play under Pep Guardiola and how nice it’s been to arrive at a club where there are plenty of Portuguese-speaking players like Ederson, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva and others.
Débora also joked about how he has fared getting used to ‘Rainchester’ and he was polite enough to smile it off and simply reiterated that playing for City was oppurtunity he culdn’t pass up.
So, if things don’t work out in the Premier League, he can always swap the sky blue shirt of city for a lovely chef’s apron and help out over at The Flat Baker.
Featured Image — Manchester City/Sporting Club de Portugal (via YouTube)
Tributes pour in for Manchester City legend and former chairman Franny Lee
Tributes are being paid to Manchester City legend and former chairman Francis ‘Franny’ Lee CBE, who has passed away aged 79.
The ex-Man City, Bolton Wanderers, Derby County and England star is said to have passed away in the early hours on Monday morning, 2 October, following a long battle with cancer.
Speaking via a club statement, his wife Gill along with children Charlotte, Jonny and Nik said, “He will be sorely missed and would like to thank everyone for their kind words”.
Both Manchester teams led tributes to the British footballing legend, with avid City fan Liam Gallagher and countless others joining in paying their respects.
Franny Lee scored 148 goals in 330 appearances during eight-year City, helping the club win multiple honours during their first periods of success, including the old First Division title back in 1968.
Born in Lancashire and starting out elsewhere in Greater Manchester at Bolton Wanderers, he also went on to play for Derby following his time with the Blues, helping the Rams to their second-ever title in 1975.
The striker also had 27 caps for England between 1968–1972, scoring 10 goals and winning FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Charity Shield twice at club level during that period.
Honouring their former centre-forward who went on to serve as Chairman for four years from 1994 onwards, the club statement read, “It is with the deepest sadness and heaviest of hearts we announce the passing of former Manchester City player and Chairman Francis Lee, aged 79”, adding that flags around the Etihad Campus are flying at half-mast.
His first club, Bolton, said of the former marksman, “All at Bolton Wanderers are saddened to learn of the passing of former forward, Francis Lee. The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Francis’ family, friends and loved ones at this difficult time.”
As for legacy as for his time in Blue, the club had already planned to immortalise Lee prior to his death, announcing the erection of a statue back in May 2022, the reveal date of which will no doubt be moved up following his passing.
The club has also assured that “more tributes will follow in the coming days.”
Rest in peace to a legend.
Featured Image — Manchester City/England/Bolton Wanderers (via Twitter)