A Measured Response to an Unprecedented Error
Jurgen Klopp, the seasoned manager of Liverpool, initially approached the VAR team’s blunder during the match against Tottenham Hotspur with a level-headed perspective. His initial response, urging everyone to “deal with it in a proper way” and reminding that the officials “didn’t do it on purpose,” showcased a measured and reasonable stance. The disallowed goal by Luis Diaz, which was a pivotal moment in the match, was initially met with magnanimity by Klopp, perhaps to avoid potential fines or other repercussions.
The Sudden Shift: Advocating for a Replay
However, a shift occurred on Wednesday when Klopp, separating his identity as Liverpool’s manager and speaking “more as a football person,” advocated for a replay of the match. His assertion that “the outcome should be a replay” and labeling the situation as “unprecedented” stirred the pot in the ongoing debate about the role and reliability of VAR in modern football.
Nick Miller of The Athletic astutely pointed out, “The first thing to say is that, clearly, the game should not be replayed. Fundamentally because this was just an officiating error. Perhaps the worst officiating error in the history of the Premier League, but just an error.”
The Slippery Slope of Allowing Replays
The notion of replaying matches due to officiating errors, even ones as blatant as this, opens a Pandora’s box of what-ifs and sets a potentially hazardous precedent. Miller wisely notes, “In its most basic form, allowing a replay because an official made a mistake — as Klopp said, an honest, if serious mistake — would set a dangerous and frankly tedious precedent.”
Historical Context: When Do We Replay?
Historically, there have been instances where matches were replayed, but not due to officiating errors. For instance, Leeds United vs Stuttgart in 1992 was replayed due to Stuttgart fielding more than the permitted number of foreign players. However, none of these instances were due to an error in officiating, which is the crux of the current debate.
If we were to replay matches due to officiating errors, where does one draw the line? Would Sheffield United be entitled to a replay for the glitch in goal-line technology against Aston Villa in 2020? Or Watford in 2008, when a goal was awarded to Reading despite the ball going wide?
The Underlying Implications of Klopp’s Request
Klopp’s request, while stemming from a place of frustration and a desire for fairness, may inadvertently diminish the goodwill garnered by Liverpool in the aftermath of the incident. Miller poses a poignant question: “As a ‘football person’, would Klopp be asking for a replay if Liverpool had won, or even drawn the game?”
While Klopp’s plea for a replay is understood, especially considering the gravity of the error, it is essential to consider the broader implications of such actions. Miller aptly states, “Liverpool’s manager is right to say this is an extreme situation, but there’s an implication that something of this nature won’t happen again. What could be the same? I don’t know. You don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet. But there will be more moments of incompetence such as this in the future.”
Seeking Solutions in Systematic Change
The true solution does not lie in replays but in systematic changes within VAR operations and official communications. Ensuring that such blatant errors are minimized or eradicated should be the focal point moving forward, rather than retroactively fixing individual matches, which sets a precarious precedent for future games.