Author: Mark

VARs – The ‘Inevitable’ Controversies

‘Inevitable’ was as misused a word this week as ‘irony’ usually is. So, it was ‘inevitable’ that video assistant referees (VARs) would cause ‘controversy’ when experimentally introduced to English club football on Monday and Wednesday. BT Sport presenter Lynsey Hipgrave said so, after Monday’s Brighton/Crystal Palace FA Cup third round tie, won for Brighton by Glenn Murray’s late goal, which was scrutinised by VAR Neil Swarbrick and assistant Peter Kirkup. “Of course, there was the inevitable VAR controversy,” she told studio pundits, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand. ‘Of course,’ there was virtually no controversy. Nor on Wednesday, when Swarbrick,...

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Video Assistant Referees: A Clear & Present Danger? 

The recent refereeing conspiracy against Arsenal served a dual purpose. It re-affirmed Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger’s not-at-all-crackpot theory that all of football is against him and his team (see the opening goal in last year’s FA Cup Final for detai…ah…wait). And it gave media pundits topical material for their “analyses” (heavy emphasis on the “anal”) of the potential impact of Video Assistant Referees (VARs), ahead of VARs introduction to competitive English club football this week (with Arsenal among the first four teams to be governed by the system. Of course). VARs themselves will serve a dual purpose. One more...

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Football Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas 

When call me negative, I simply say “no, I’m not” and wait for the laughter…and wait… But the just-finished festive football fun showcased much of the negative in the modern game. Some other negatives are on-going. In 2017, Rangers were confirmed as cheats when the UK Supreme Court ruled that their scheme to wilfully avoid tax on player salaries was illegally funded. Rangers failed to meet legal obligations to tax AND football authorities, admitting to doing so to sign players they, ahem, “perhaps” could not otherwise afford. Yet Scotland’s football authorities want them to keep the titles they cheated...

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The FIFA Trial: Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad?

“Happy but not satisfied.” When I read football comics as a 28-year-old kid, comic-strip stars such as “Cracker” Crane of Ditchfield United and “Bobby of the Blues” (from the porn-mag-sounding “Scorcher and Score”) never seemed to lose. And “happy but not satisfied” was the closest they ever got to describing crowd disaffection; itself a remarkably cossetted view for an era of scarves-on-wrists, feather-cut-sporting “football hooligans,” on-and-off the pitch, fans and players alike. My point? Oh yes…sorry. “Happy but not satisfied” was the phrase which came to my mind, and I’m sure the minds of more important and better-informed observers,...

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The FIFA Trial: Over By Christmas? 

Watching helplessly, as events overtake your just-submitted 1800-word article, is frustrating. Luckily, I was proof-reading my last “Fifa Trial” piece (NOT “Fifa-Gate” because that…MAKES…NO…SENSE…) when news emerged that defence attorneys in New York’s Brooklyn Federal Courthouse had “declined to submit an affirmative defence of their clients.” So, I was able to look a fraction less behind-the-times, even if it was disappointing to discover that the attorneys’ statement was NOT legalese for “there’s NO defence for this shower of crooks.” And some of the late testimony illustrated an issue which has concerned some trial observers. After the trial’s early dramas,...

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