As you probably heard many times on broadcasts over the weekend, MLS officially rolled out the Video Assisted Referee (VAR) system league-wide, and already has brought about game changing consequences. While some fans may argue that this is the worst thing to ever happen to soccer, here are three things that are definitely worse than VAR:
1. Fans complaining about VAR.
Have you ever noticed that when someone complains about how hot it is outside, it makes everyone within earshot feel just a little bit worse about how hot it is? Well, complaining about VAR is a similar concept. There is going to be a (potentially painful) learning curve as the system is adopted into place for every MLS match, but every team will be enduring the process at the same time and will be subjected to the same mistakes that will be part of the process. As we at Total MLS like remind you regularly, there is no cosmic conspiracy against your favorite team and PRO referees are not out to get your team, specifically. That being said, every team will most likely experience a VAR call for or against their team at least once this season, but those are calls that were potentially incorrect to begin with. So, let’s give the league some time to work out the glitches before we grab our pitchforks and torches to fight the robots trying to make MLS refereeing a little bit better. (I have just been told that it isn’t an actual robot making the decision on the play. Bummer.)
2. MLS referees remaining at the caliber they currently are.
MLS referees have consistently been the punchline in terms of referee quality. Week after week there always seems to be a new complaint from fans regarding missed calls or bias against their favorite team. Giving referees a second chance to make the right call in a few specific situations is one way to address this recurring problem. MLS refereeing has a long way to go to match the caliber of referees in other leagues, and, while that may be something to address in other avenues, introducing VAR gives MLS referees a chance to review a play one more time to make sure they made the correct call. MLS fans rarely use live play to make their arguments for or against a call, but, rather, they have the luxury of using replays from multiple angles where the call is much clearer. VAR is simply giving that opportunity to MLS referees in select situations, and that can only be positive for MLS moving forward.
3. The homophobic goal kick chant.
Yes, unfortunately, this is still something we need to talk about. If your chant is actively alienating an entire group of people based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation or, frankly, anything else not soccer related, you need to rethink your chant. MLS has made numerous attempts at ending the offensive goal kick chant, once and for all, but somehow it still continues. Maybe try to think of something clever to say instead? For example, when goalkeeper Joe Cannon was playing with the LA Galaxy, a group of fans began shouting “boom goes the Cannon!” every time he had a goal kick. There are ways to create an atmosphere at a match without separating an entire group of people from the party. Ultimately, making sure MLS atmospheres are inclusive is far more important than a slight pause in a game to allow a referee to make sure he or she is making the right decision.