NZME's award winning* football blog Goalmouth Scramble is back. Our rotating stable of football writers will offer daily hot takes on all the action from the World Cup in Russia. Today, Michael Burgess has a scorching take.

I never thought I would write this, but I'm actually missing Sepp Blatter.

In a very, very small way, but still.

Sure, he was the one of the most morally bankrupt administrators that world sport has ever seen, and caused untold damage to the game, especially in the way he encouraged and facilitated corruption throughout Fifa, which became his own personal fiefdom.


But the diminutive Swiss has one – perhaps only one – endearing quality – which seems particularly relevant now, as we watch the 2018 World Cup.

Blatter hated the prospect of technology encroaching into the game.

Despite repeated calls for it, he constantly resisted moves to introduce technology to help with the officiating of football.

In some quarters it was seen as a Luddite-like stance, backed up by most of the other senior figures at Fifa, especially when other major sports across the globe were keenly embracing it.

Blatter got a lot wrong but he was on the money with this one.

Sepp Blatter, when he had dollar bills thrown at him at a meeting. Good times. Photo / Getty
Sepp Blatter, when he had dollar bills thrown at him at a meeting. Good times. Photo / Getty

VAR has no room in football.

It may look like a helpful non-threatening addition at the moment, but it's a dangerous beast.

Like an apex predator, it will gradually encroach at every major tournament, until it becomes all encompassing.


By then the influence of technology could have changed the game forever.

The beauty of football, what made it so compelling, was partly in its imperfection and rough edges.

It retained the element of human error, the grey area, which made for endless debates, discussion and colour.

Goal line technology is fine – and has worked well – but that is where it should stop.

The match officials in football are bloody good, probably the best of their type in the world, as can be seen with the offside decisions made at high speed.

They don't get much wrong anyway, and when they did, usually, it was part of the tapestry of football.

Sure, there have been big ones, like Maradona in 1986 against England, although it's still hard to argue that Argentina weren't the better team that day.

Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland is regularly cited as well.

But often these things even out.

All Whites fans cried foul over the Italian penalty against New Zealand at the 2010 World Cup, which VAR may not have awarded, but technology would have also ruled out Shane Smeltz's goal (for a marginal offside) in the same game.

One of the saddest sights at this World Cup so far was the whole Spanish team appealing after Iran 'scored' on Thursday morning (NZT).

It revealed a pattern of behavior that is only going to become more prevalent, with every goalmouth incident.

If the match officials need help, follow UEFA's lead and base additional officials on the byline, to help with calls in the penalty area.

Referee Joel Aguilar reviews the VAR footage. Photo / Getty
Referee Joel Aguilar reviews the VAR footage. Photo / Getty

VAR is far from perfect anyway. As an example, there is still doubt over the penalty awarded to France versus Australia, despite numerous slow motion analysis.

As we have seen with cricket, league and rugby, technology can often lead to more confusion.

The NRL is still, on a regular basis, making the wrong decisions, calls that are counter intuitive to the instincts of every fan and pundit.

And in league it has led to referees gradually losing the courage of their conviction.

Imagine what will happen in football as VAR gets extended, as time goes on.

A beautiful goal is scored in a semifinal, but it needs to be checked, and a foul is found earlier within a 12-pass movement.

Not to mention the increasingly stop-start nature of the sport, which used to pride itself on his flowing nature.

That's the future, and it ain't pretty.

*Goalmouth Scramble's 'award' was more of an inter-company acknowledgement in an email from 2012.