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Give us back our game – supporters trust backs Wolves’ bid to scrap VAR

Wolves fans want supporters of other clubs to lobby for VAR to be scrapped (David Davies/PA)
Wolves fans want supporters of other clubs to lobby for VAR to be scrapped (David Davies/PA)

Wolves supporters have called on their counterparts at other top-flight clubs to lobby in favour of scrapping VAR.

The Black Country club issued a statement on Wednesday confirming they supported the removal of VAR and had submitted a resolution to trigger a vote at the Premier League’s annual general meeting on June 6.

Meanwhile, the PA news agency understands there will be no discussion or vote among Championship clubs about introducing VAR into the second tier next season.

Witnessing the Premier League’s experience is understood to be a factor that has contributed to a collective lack of enthusiasm among Championship clubs, along with cost considerations.

Wolves’ move has been welcomed by the 1877 Supporters Trust, which said it was “incredibly pleased” by the stance taken by the club and added: “VAR has taken the enjoyment out of the game we all know and love with such little benefit.

“We are pleased the club have listened to concerns raised by the supporters trust, focus groups and the wider fan base and taken the issue to the Premier League.

“We now back all supporters trusts of Premier League clubs to come together to ensure their clubs vote in favour of removing VAR and giving us back our game.”

That call on the social media platform X was reposted by the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), which on Thursday highlighted the criticisms levelled at VAR in its summer 2023 fans’ survey, which canvassed the views of almost 10,000 supporters.

A VAR check
VAR has dominated the headlines this season (Mike Egerton/PA)

The survey found only one in 20 (5.5 per cent) of fans who had experienced VAR in stadiums rated their experience of it as good or very good.

Almost two-thirds (63.3 per cent) were against its continued use, with 91.9 per cent criticising the length of time taken to make decisions and 95 per cent saying the removal of spontaneity from goal celebrations was a chief concern.

“There are more correct decisions than ever but 19 out of 20 fans find VAR makes football less enjoyable because of delays and the removal of the immediate joy associated with goal celebrations,” the FSA post said.

“Goal-line tech still has wider support as it is almost instantaneous.”

PA understands goal-line technology, which predates VAR, is not part of Wolves’ proposal.

The FSA did acknowledge the engagement it had had with referees’ body Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) on the issue, and highlighted that PGMOL would be running a ‘VAR roadshow’ for fans at the FSA’s AGM next month.

The Premier League says it fully supports the continued use of VAR but acknowledges the need for improvements.

The league’s chief football officer Tony Scholes admitted in February that the in-stadium experience of VAR was “nowhere near good enough”. The league is set to trial a protocol seen at last summer’s Women’s World Cup where referees communicate the final outcome of a VAR review to fans in the stadium.

Scholes said the league was also “on a journey” towards being able to broadcast live audio. Currently the laws of the game forbid it, but the league is working with the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to progress the issue.

Clubs also voted to introduce semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) in the autumn, which league sources say will speed up the average VAR check for offside by 31 seconds.

The league also points to the greater number of correct decisions since VAR’s introduction. In the final season before it came in, 2018-19, the league said 82 per cent of ‘key match incident’ decisions were correct. That figure with VAR assistance is now 96 per cent.