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Forget VAR, let's get rid of football referees altogether

The beautiful game in its purest form

Forget VAR, let's get rid of football referees altogether
18 January 2018

The idea of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) is to catch the things that regular refs and linesmen – all skin and bone and guts and cards – miss. The human brain is fallable, isn’t it? Prone to illusion. Now there is no escape. The VAR sits and waits, like the Terminator but a grass, to make sure that everything is good and ordered and absolutely correct.

New things are introduced to football all the time. Assistant refs, of course, were not introduced until 1899, about 35 years after organised association football’s invention. They were there to help refs out – refs with their flatcaps and wooden whistles pressed to scurvy-ravaged mouths – with the running of a game still in its infancy.

More than a hundred years later, the additional referee was introduced to help refs – refs with hands scorched by letters of pure hatred written by middle-aged Chelsea fans who were so mad that a goal they thought was a goal was not given as a goal that they nearly cut the bulldog in a Lampard shirt tattoo out of their calf – to do… pretty much nothing but stand behind the goal. 

But what if there were no refs at all?

Really. What if there were no refs in football? If we just did away with them altogether. What then? What would happen? I think it just might bloody work, you know. Let the players fight things out for themselves. Goals are decided only when the ball hits the net or when a bigger, harder player says it did. Diving wouldn’t matter because the offended player can just get the offending attacker in an arm-bar and tap him out. Football would be… It’d be jazz, man. Fluid. Formless. Beautiful.

“My issue with football? Uh… It’s… Uh… Wait. There must be something”

And what would happen to the radio station call-ins? Gary from Chester, in his Mondeo, in a lay-by, air thick with frustration and the stink of cheese and onion McCoys, fingers all crumby, eyes all bloodshot, finally getting through the over-worked producer’s vetting process, ready to meet the piss-boiling whatabouter presenters mano-e-fucking-mano live on the air to talk about… about what exactly? Without the barometer of right and wrong, without the man in the middle, there can be nothing to moan about. The natural order of things will be settled by pure chaos. Like in nature. 

The species of man – man of chips, man of war – wants to return to its purest form, right? Paleo diets and all that. Biological determinism and such. Women in kitchens, men dead in battlefields. Why not just let 22 blokes go at it on a pitch without any rules at all? Then we’d see. People say that VAR will remove all sense of doubt from the game. That the game will finally be fair. This game we’ve hated all these years: finally fixed. But you know what would be the fairest way to settle things? If you just had no rules or refs or techno-grasses at all. Fair is only a concept created to appease society’s predetermined mores. Screw mores, I say. No more mores.

Without rules would everything fall apart or would we finally see the beauty of the beautiful game? What if every Champions League final descended into a lunch-time kickabout scramble? I think it just might work. I think we should make it happen.

(Images: Rex / iStock)