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Survey: Fans say they will attend fewer games because of VAR

The results of our fan consultation on VAR are in, and they make for interesting reading: more than four out of ten fans say they will attend fewer games in future due to the effect VAR is having on the game.

In what was the largest survey of its kind on VAR, the more than 33,000 supporters polled were almost unanimous in their opinion – 95% of those who had experienced VAR in-stadium and 94% who had watched matches on TV said that VAR had made watching football less enjoyable.

Chief among the concerns of fans was the removal of the spontaneous joy of goal celebrations (95%), and the impact of delays; 86% of TV viewers and 91% of match-goers stated that VAR decisions are generally not resolved in a reasonable amount of time.

Taking all things into consideration, only 26% of those polled said they supported the use of VAR.

More than a third of those respondents (39%) who had been Premier League season ticket holders before COVID-19 hit said they were likely to attend fewer games in future as a result of the impact that VAR was having on the game. 44% of all regular matchgoers said they would be attending less due to VAR.

The results of the survey will be provided to the Premier League who are undergoing a similar consultation of players and managers to make improvements to the technology from next season.

FSA vice-chair Tom Greatrex said: “There is a clear feeling among fans that VAR has ruined the spontaneity of goal celebrations, and taken away a big part of our most enjoyable matchday moments.

“With four in ten fans saying that VAR is likely to lead them to attend fewer matches in the future we hope that the Premier League and referees’ body PGMOL will hear the fans’ voice and take urgent steps to improve a system that isn’t delivering clear and understandable decisions in stadiums.”

Fans are not completely against all technology, however; 97% of respondents were in favour of goalline technology, which provides near-instant results.

Other key stats from the survey include:

  • Around half of those who responded had experienced VAR in-stadium (55%)
  • Just over three quarters of fans (77%) were of the opinion that referees needed to take the time to more clearly explain VAR decisions to those in the stadium
  • A similar proportion (78%) agreed that other sports are better suited to the use of video referees/umpires than football is.
  • Two thirds of fans (63%) are not in favour of using VAR in competitions where it won’t be used in every game, such as in the FA Cup or EFL Cup in lower league grounds.
  • Only 13% of fans believe that VAR has improved the overall accuracy of refereeing decisions
  • Just 4% of fans think VAR has had a positive impact on the team they support, 78% think it’s been more negative.

FSA National Council member and member of our VAR working group Steve Moulds said: “One of the main concerns raised by supporters is that VAR decisions are taking too long, and even then they aren’t always clearly communicated to those fans in the stadium when they are made.

“Despite being part of our game for several years, there is still great confusion over exactly how VAR operates, and that is having a detrimental impact on the enjoyment of match-going fans, as well as those watching on TV.

“We’d like to see much better communication and explanation from officials on VAR decisions, which will go some way to improving supporter confidence in the system.”

Who completed the survey?

  • A total of 33,243 fans responded to the survey, which ran online from 29th March to 12th April.
  • The majority of fans (51%) were aged between 25 and 44; under 25s were represented by 13% of respondents while just 6% were over 65.
  • 33% of respondents identified as home season ticket holders, with 21% being regular away match attenders (6 or more away games in a normal pre-COVID season)
  • A further 23% were regular home matchgoers; while 15% were non-matchgoers
  • 86% of respondents supported a Premier League club

What now?

As a democratic fan organisation, the working group who put together the survey will take note of the data and feed it in to our upcoming AGM, to develop campaigns and work with the football authorities in addressing fans’ concerns.

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Have your say on VAR

The Premier League has launched a VAR consultation with players and managers, but we believe one vital component is missing from that selection – match-going supporters.

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