They’ve got this new thing in football. It’s called the Video Assistant Referee and it is designed to make the game, at the highest level, pristine and free from human error.
This is, to my mind, a mistaken aspiration in a game that relies on human error for its excitement, especially when the England goalkeeper Joe Hart is playing. Anyway, what happens is this. When the referee isn’t sure about some crucial incident on the pitch, he summons another referee via a headset to help him. The other referee is many miles away, watching the match on the television. The ref stops the game and wanders over to have a look at a video screen by the side of the pitch. And he and the other referee, all those miles away, talk about it for two or three minutes, while the crowd gets bored and the flow of the game is lost, and then he makes the wrong decision. Or maybe, who knows, the right decision. A decision.
My guess is that soon it will be expanded to a panel of experts, or perhaps to the International Court of Justice. Or possibly, one day not too far down the line, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Muhammad and maybe one of those smallpox deities the Hindus admire, all glued to a TV in a hotel room somewhere, bickering about whether or not the talented if histrionic Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah took a dive or not. (‘Definite foul in my book,’ says Muhammad, reaching for a salt ’n’ vinegar Kettle chip. ‘Bollocks, you’re biased,’ replies Christ, finishing his can of Stella. ‘If he’d been called Reuben Goldstein you’d have sent him off for diving.’)
Because at heart, that is what the VAR really is: a God substitute for a game that has ideas way above its station.