The Premier League would be going down a “dangerous road” and television viewers could switch off if the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, was introduced next season, according to Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish.
So far English soccer’s experiment with VAR has received mixed reviews with fans complaining they are being left in the dark as decisions are made, while the system itself has caused as much controversy as it was designed to prevent.
Parish got a close-up view of it when Palace’s FA Cup third round tie against Brighton & Hove Albion in January became the first competitive club match in England to use VAR.
It has also been used in League Cup ties and was on duty in Sunday’s final between Manchester City and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium. This year’s World Cup is also set to feature VAR.
Premier League clubs meet in April when a decision could be taken on whether to roll out VAR next season.
Parish will not be one of those voting in favour of the system, which uses officials to monitor games on video screens and flag up incidents to the on-field referee .
“I’m very worried about VAR. I think we are going down an extremely dangerous road,” he told a Sports Industry Breakfast Club in central London on Wednesday.
“I think you will lose the fringe viewers because those people who don’t watch every week will tune in and find the rules have changed, they won’t know what’s going on.
“We are always talking about viewers having shorter attention spans. So why have all these stoppages and make a 90 minute game last 120 minutes?”
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), soccer’s law-making body, which agreed a two-year worldwide trial of VAR, insist the system should only be used to correct clear ‘match-changing’ errors.
But Parish believes the use of VAR in the case of goals, penalties and straight red cards as well as rectifying mistaken identity will be the thin end of the wedge.
“My real problem with VAR is that at the moment they say there are (four) decisions where they use it,” he said.
“But you know that they’ll then say, ‘Right we are getting those right but we are not getting the other decisions right,’ so they’ll want to have VAR for those too.
“They’ll end up using it to see if a keeper has taken six steps. I don’t see a point in having it for some things when you are still going to get injustices.
“I would leave it as it is and maybe have an extra referee to try and get more things right, keep the flow of the game.
“Controversy sometimes costs you dearly but it’s actually part of the game.”
There have been several controversial incidents involving VAR this season in England.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was angry after the referee’s decision not to use the VAR in his side’s FA Cup third-round replay against Norwich City when midfielder Willian was booked for diving rather than earning a penalty.
West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Pardew described VAR as “mysterious” after his side had a goal disallowed after a four-minute decision-making process in their Cup win over Liverpool.
Last weekend Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger thought Manchester City’s second goal was offside and should have been overturned by VAR.
“I have an open mind,” Parish said. “But for me, VAR has to change from where it is now if it’s got any chance of adding something to the game. Right now I would be a ‘No’.”