The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has truly muscled its way into football matches, preventing any form of continuous play and making spectators yawn even more than they did years ago. Players gather on the side-line for tea and biscuits after a 'goal' appears to have been scored, awaiting the decision of referees conferring with a lady seated on a blue and orange sofa in a Stockley Park cellar in south London, enjoying Aperol tangerine cocktails and prosciutto-wrapped peach slices. During such intervals, players become cold, and their legs seize up or an arm falls off. Spectators often think it's all over and go home. Yet referees vigorously defend the scheme.
"I don't understand the criticism", said Norman Cass, who refereed the Burnley vs. Bournemouth match this week. "It helps me enormously to keep up with some of my favourite series."
Burnley manager, Sean Dyche, was surprised to hear Cass discuss a scene from The Simpsons with the fourth official on his way down the tunnel at halftime. He had just watched Homer and Marge arguing, claimed Dyche.
Questioned on the issue after the game, Cass replied: "Nonsense. They weren't arguing at all! Having clarified the penalty was not a penalty, I merely switched over to The Simpsons for a minute or two. Very, very entertaining. Better than Burnley vs. Bournemouth for sure."
At Stamford Bridge, a week earlier, referee Ralf Matt was fuming after returning to the field having scrutinized a video for several minutes. He interrupted the game on no less than 24 occasions to 'check up' with Stockley Park.
"Actually, I was following the Antiques Roadshow," Matt explained. "My wife had phoned and said she intended to bid for Edvard Munch's The Scream - £5,000, a genuine bargain. Every time I returned to the screen, there she was, bidding. Very exciting! She won the bid but was then told The Scream was an audio cassette by Edmund Mump. I do wish she'd pay more attention to detail. Pity really, we don't have a cassette recorder. Never mind. Wonderful idea, VAR."