“So there you are – you can see what it is like. The camera’s hot, probing eye, these monstrous machines and their attendants – a kind of twentieth century torture chamber, that’s what it is.”
That’s a quote from Prime Minister Harold McMillan. In 1962 he opened a Conservative Party broadcast with that candid statement.
He could just as easily be talking about football’s autocorrect, V.A.R.
It’s a such an ugly tool for the beautiful game. It fell out of the pedantry and hit every branch on the way down. It can confidently Tipp-Ex out goals by judging people offside by half a pixel, turning a game with rules meant to be adjudicated with the naked eye over to slow motion robotic pedantry. And then there’s the question of how someone can be ruled offside by a millimeter at all anyway – beautifully explained by the massive brained Jonathan Wilson here: “Can anybody tell me if my working is wrong here? Footballers commonly reach speeds of 25kph – ie, 6.94m/s. Sky HDTV broadcasts at 50 frames per second, ie, one frame every 0.02s. In 0.02s, a player moving at 25kph travels 138.8mm. When a pass is played, the VAR man presses pause on his video. Even if he always manages to freeze on the correct frame (which seems unlikely), how are we pretending VAR can adjudicate offsides to within a couple of mm?”
With V.A.R. every game is just like watching Brazil, the dystopian film, not the football team.
Sod H.A.L., sod Skynet, and sod V.A.R.
And then there’s the frustrating delayed orgasm in the stands, as fans don’t know if they should celebrate or not. Eventually, I suppose, they won’t bother at all.
There’s the admitted inconsistencies – four big errors by mid-September alone according to Mike Riley… Wasn’t the removal of error the very reason for bringing in V.A.R. in the first place?
But above all this mess, why are we spending so much on tech to stare frame by frame at minuscule offsides and handballs when we could be staring at something else entirely?
Rather than turning to a video assistant referee to tell us, once and for all dammit, whether Roy Race’s arm hair touched the ball shouldn’t we be using tech to actually* kick out racism?
Think about all the tools at our disposal – think about all the money in the game. Search engines can accurately predict what I want to find. Social media can stalk me with tailored ads across a variety of platforms just because I went onto a website looking for a new watch strap.
My Twitter account, @Dixies60 got banned for months, after I posted a video comparing Oumar Niasse’s dive against Palace with Anthony Martial’s dive against us? Why? Because within minutes the Premier League filed a copyright complaint with Twitter, and they kicked me out.
Racist tweets against players though?
“Sorry guv, more than my job’s worth.”
The previous year I was watching NBC Sports Gold on my iPhone (technology eh, isn’t it amazing?) and took the most perfect screen shot of Ross Barkley raising his arms and celebrating a goal before it had even hit the back of the net. I tweeted it out. It did well. Ronald Koeman even used my screen grab. The next game NBC Sports had blocked out the ability for me – and every other NBC Sports Gold subscriber – to screen grab.
My point? I’m a piddling blogger, tweeting and kvetching about Everton Football Club, and getting identified for my minor social media infractions with ease. And tech and social media giants tell us it’s hard to stop the racists when they tweet horrible stuff to players… Not if they could be arsed.
We follow a sport where Raheem Sterling being a droplet offside is FAR more important than an ocean of racism.