Central Coast Mariners coach Paul Okon says fans are being turned off football by the Video Assistant Referee and has urged Football Federation Australia to scrap the use of the controversial system after two farcical incidents overshadowed yet another A-League match.
Two players were sent off in the Mariners' 2-0 loss to Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday after intervention from the VAR, with accusations it is being used to re-referee games in breach of its protocol. Wout Brama and Jake McGing had yellow cards upgraded to red cards after the VAR suggested referee Alex King was too lenient with his officiating.
The VAR is only meant to step in on rare occasions to address clear and obvious errors, not provide constant support to guide referees in the centre of the match. In the case of Brama, his tackle from behind on Bonevacia was perhaps deserving of a straight red but it is arguable whether it was clear enough to justify the upgrade from the referee's initial interpretation.
However, the dismissal of McGing was shrouded in controversy after his tackle on Kearyn Baccus seemed to be harshly met with a caution, before the VAR somehow found grounds for a dismissal.
Fans were furious with the decision, hundreds stormed off in protest despite 13 minutes left on the clock as the contest was killed off due to the intervention of the VAR.
"If you came to this game tonight and you left here no longer in love with football, who could blame you?" Okon said. "I think it's probably what everyone is talking about and that's not the reason why people are turning up watching, it's not why we turn up to play and coach."
Okon was bemused with the two decisions, which fell into a grey area of officiating yet were dealt with so severely after intervention from the VAR.
"I just don't understand it. If both challenges were violent I think we would have seen protests from the Wanderers players or the Wanderers bench ??? there was no reaction. The reaction came from the gentlemen sitting upstairs," Okon said.
Central Coast Mariners will appeal the dismissal of McGing during the week, hoping to free him from an automatic one-match ban.
"I think it's within our rights to do that so hopefully people who hold the power will bring it to justice I guess," Okon said.