First, let’s get the facts straight: VAR, and by extension refereeing in England, is broken. After the debacle at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, it is unclear whether the refs are simply bad or
bought if it’s something more nefarious, but whatever the answer, PGMOL have proven themselves incapable of correctly officiating a competitive game of football.
So, instead of the current process—a bad
or bought ref calls up his buddy, who is also bad or bought, and together, the two of them bang their usually bald heads together and might accidentally through sheer random chance occasionally stumble upon the correct call—we scrap it entirely. The whole process lacks transparency, and there are countless examples, on a weekly basis, of real head-scratching decisions that are hard to justify in the cold light of day.
But do we go back to the “good old days” pre-VAR? No, I don’t think that’s correct either. These refs have proven they cannot be trusted, whatever the reason, and need oversight. Oversight by folks who don’t know what really happened on that trip to Indonesia in the offseason.
My proposal? Three random lads (with “lads” here a gender neutral term for the bit) in a pub. Any lads, any pub. Have you been watching footy for a good few years? Are you at the pub? Grand, you’re in the mix. Make it completely random, of course. The more random the better. No need to just have English lads either. It’s a global fanbase, let’s let lads in pubs all over the world have a say.
I want lads from Argentina to have their say. I’d love to hear the footy opinions of some Korean lads. My heart would absolutely sing to hear German lads (and if Jürgen Klopp ever ends up in a pub watching a match he would qualify as a lad, obviously) lecture these refs as to why, exactly, their interpretation of the beautiful game that led to some call or other on the pitch is complete and utter shite.
Why not? We have the technology. The game is beamed around the world. It probably wouldn’t take longer than the current process can at times or get calls obviously wrong at a greater rate.
So. Once you have the randomly selected lads, you set them up with the same access to videos that they have in Stockley Park now. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection and a laptop. Then it’s a simple vote. If two of the three lads disagree with the on field decision, it’s overturned. End of story. The Lads have spoken.
We also wouldn’t have to hold our breath while The Lads get out their rulers for tight offside calls. They just take a quick look at the still image and decide. No more toenail offsides, and a return to the more intuitive “level with the last defender is on” interpretation, and none of Arsene Wenger’s proposed moving the line around as if that does anything but move the line around.
All games will then be reviewed by an independent panel. If The Lads get most of the major decisions right, the Premier League pays their bar tabs for a year. If bribes must be involved, you might as well bribe for good behavior!
Because the whole thing will be random (I’m thinking like a big lottery/raffle kind of thing? I haven’t worked out all the details just yet, you all will have to do some of it on your own), getting some shit Mancunian Lads one week can be forgiven as “just one of those,” not something systematic or nefarious by The Cabal of Balds.
Is it a perfect solution? Hardly. But at this point it’s hard to imagine The Lads having a worse record than the lot currently in place. And even if they somehow do, at least it might be a bit more fun for everyone this way. Plus at least the Lads wouldn’t be out to protect their own like a cop union. Less likely, too, to have just so happened (whoops, imagine that!) to take money to officiate in a country that just so happen to own a Premier League club.
Moreover, The Lads, having experience watching as fans, would hopefully have a better and more intuitive sense of the rights and wrongs of the game. We could do away with having to litigate and relitigate the handball rules 17 times a year. Much like how the U.S. Supreme Court famously “knew pornography when they saw it,” some things in the game become impossible to define, no matter how hard FIFA tries. The Lads, though? The Lads know a handball or penalty when they see one. Trust in The Lads.
The best part of all of this would be the transparency. Right now, we have to wait impatiently while some unseen and unheard people somewhere debate what they see. At home and in the grounds, we are aware of the check, but not privy to the (for lack of a better word) thought process behind it.
Instead, The Lads would be intended for broadcast from the start. Three drinks in and debating a soft pen or handball or sending off before voting to overturn it? Talk about entertainment!
Jesus had his Three Wise Men. It is time that we have our Three (slightly to moderately intoxicated) Lads. It’s the only solution.