So near yet so VAR

THE camera does not lie, but does it tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

When it comes to football, there are certain things that even dozens of the finest lenses cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt. Not even with umpteen replays, in slow motion and at different angles.

Nope, on certain incidents the jury simply cannot reach a verdict which is why the current Video Assistant Referee (VAR) experiment is more trouble than it's worth.

An awful lot more trouble as more managers are alarmingly aware: if it is foisted upon football, it could destroy the game.

It says much that the week's main talking points are still whether Harry Kane was offside, whether he dived and whether Eric Lamela dived last Sunday.

It's been a bit low-key since with FA Cup replays and Antonio Conte fatigue, but all this when the confounded system was not even being used!

Hapless referee Jon Moss seemed to think it was when he asked the fourth official if there was "anything from TV?" as the Liverpool-Spurs epic came to a climax.

In the heat of battle, he needed all the help he could get but it came only from his assistant and not from the telly.

And now Moss could face a reprimand for asking – but not for giving two dubious penalties to Spurs. Yep, it looks like VAR is sowing confusion even when it's not in operation.

In England, it is being used only in the FA Cup and League Cup, not the leagues, but it has already caused enough chaos to cast a shadow over the entire game. Its most notable intrusion was also at Anfield when it turned Liverpool's FA Cup tie with West Brom into an elongated farce.

VAR advocates point out that each of four major decisions in that game were ultimately correct - and that's all that matters.

It isn't. We all want things to be right – or as right as they reasonably can be in an imperfect game in an imperfect world – but not at the expense of ruining the entire spectacle.

The enduring memory of that game was the sight of another hapless ref, Craig Pawson, having his finger pressed to his ear as he consulted with the VAR official Andre Marriner who was safely ensconced in something resembling a space station 200 miles away.

Their conversations lasted so long spectators wondered if they were discussing Brexit, Trump and global warming as well as the offside issues at hand.

Players froze to the point of needing a warm-up before the game restarted and two West Brom players went down with a hamstring pulls shortly afterwards.

Managers as well as fans hadn't a clue what was going on and here was yet another example of a notable downgrade of the in-stadium experience. The people who pay for the privilege were made to suffer in ignorance that was anything but bliss.

Apart from the unacceptably long delays that angered the crowd, killed momentum and risked - and perhaps even caused - injury, VAR threatened to undermine the game's Holy Grail – the goal itself.

In a low-scoring game, the goal is sacrosanct, an orgasmic moment which can often ensure victory or at least put your team well on the way to securing it. It has the value of rarity and football is the ultimate example of 'less is more'. It is why fans are unable to take their eyes off the spectacle.

Unlike those high-scoring sports where a point is no more than a ripple in the ebb and flow of action, a goal in football is the riding of a giant wave. No other sport is as stingy with its climaxes and thus cannot afford to have this diminished in any way.

There are times when a goal is disallowed anyway and that is disappointing enough but grudgingly accepted if the decision is correct. But mercifully they don't happen too often.

But from what we've seen with VAR, the referees - like cricket umpires - are terrified of making a mistake and will refer to the man 200 miles away before giving even the most obvious goal – and leave the crowd and players hanging.

Even if the goal is confirmed, that joyous, irretrievable moment is lost. And you don't know if there'll be another.

You might have thought the Liverpool-Spurs game would have been an occasion for the VAR lobby to claim it would have ended the arguments – a perfect opportunity for it to show its worth.

But they were conspicuous by their absence. For the simple reason that VAR would not have helped one iota. The contentious issues were about contact and that's subjective – how much, how little, even if there is contact it doesn't automatically mean it's a foul etc. etc.

It was also significant that several distinguished ex referees were split on these matters. The hardest to decide is the penalty and whether it's a dive. Some players are experts at the dark art and even practice in training so it's impossible to decide.

To be fair, VAR was worth a try. When we think of the outrages from Maradona's Hand of God, Thierry Henry's handball to the so-called handball that denied Northern Ireland a place at the next World Cup, VAR would have righted those wrongs.

But the aim, according to English ref boss Mike Riley, is to improve decision-making by just two percent.

He claims refs get 96% right now, a figure that Arsene Wenger would not be alone in disputing. But is it worth all the expense for two percent?

As we can see, the real cost is to the game. Lose the flow, and you lose football. Even if they invent the equivalent of cricket's snickometer – a tripometer perhaps? "Minimum interference, maximum benefit" is what VAR promised.

What we are getting is the polar opposite.

Shameful no show by Glazers

The 60th anniversary of the Munich air disaster was commemorated around the world with due decorum on Tuesday.

However, one jarring note was the glaring absence of the people who own
Manchester United.

Nope, the Glazers did not even show up. If anything highlights the growing disconnect between certain owners and the clubs themselves, this has to be it.
Clubs that have a bitter a rivalry with United showed great respect – but not these charlatans.

Such an abrogation of duty just could not be allowed to pass.

Bob' latest book, Living the Dream, is on sale at Borders, MPH, Popular, Gearakbudaya and Kinokuniya bookstores.