Had Brighton and Hove Albion crashed out of the FA Cup against Millwall on Sunday – and we were about as close to doing so as you can get – then there would have been an awful lot of attention on the performance of the match officials.
This is par for the course these days. Albion fans are particularly quick to scapegoat referees and their assistants for every point dropped or goal conceded. There are Seagulls supporters out there who probably believe that we would have 87 points out of 87, if only there wasn’t a conspiracy among Premier League officials to do us out of victory every week.
It’s nonsense of course. It wasn’t the officials' fault that we were absolutely woeful for 80 minutes against a side 25 places below us in the football pyramid on Sunday. Referees are human and humans make mistakes. Just ask Millwall’s David Martin about that as without his mistake, we would be out of the FA Cup.
On Sunday, the mistakes made by the officials were plentiful. Shane Duffy should have had a first half penalty and Glenn Murray was clearly blocked illegally when trying to mark Alex Pearce as he headed home Millwall’s opener. And that is before we get to Jurgen Locadia’s “goal” in the 120th minute, incorrectly chalked off for offside despite Martin Montoya having timed his run to millimetre perfection.
What would have helped is the video assistant referee. It seems absolutely ridiculous that VAR can only be used in certain FA Cup games and not others.
Surely, in order to maintain the integrity of the competition, it has to be a level playing field across the board? VAR for all or VAR for none – not VAR for games involving Watford, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Manchester United and no VAR for those involving Millwall, Brighton, Manchester City and Swansea City.
Imagine if they played one half of the Wimbledon men’s draw this year using Hawk-Eye and the other half without. Nobody would take the competition seriously if Andy Murray made the final having had six Hawk-Eye calls go his way to face Rafa Nadal, who should have lost against Roger Federer but didn’t because there was no technology available.
It’s like having the winner of one the Olympic’s 100 metre semi finals decided by a photo finish and another by a bloke drawing a picture of what he thinks happened as they crossed the line using a set of crayons bought from Sainsbury’s in West Hove.
That is the farcical situation the FA have put us in. The official line is that it can’t be used outside of grounds in the Premier League, which is absurd. The FA are essentially suggesting that The Den and the Liberty Stadium cannot handle the technology, ridiculous given that the Liberty hosted top flight football for seven years up until 10 months ago.
If the governing body spent just a little bit of the billions of pounds they are sitting on, you could have VAR across the board for the quarter finals onwards – no matter what the venues are.
It shames them that they’d rather have the entire integrity of the competition undermined.
Of course, the Albion eventually got the job done on penalties so in the end, the lack of VAR at the Den didn’t matter. All it would have done is saved the many nerves that were shredded in the away end because of the dramatic nature of what occurred from the 80th minute onwards.
But it has had an undoubted detrimental effect on Brighton’s chances of winning the FA Cup. VAR at Swansea might well have denied Manchester City a penalty and it certainly would have ruled out Sergio Aguero’s winner for offside.
Take away those two goals, and we’d be facing the Swans for a place in the final rather than Pep Guardiola’s quadruple chasers. Imagine that.
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