Thursday 5 October 2023

VAR shables - blaming human error is missing the point

17:42 Posted by G No comments

Definitely a systems failure !

I've been meaning to write this article for a few days, and in the time I've been thinking about it, Matthew Syed has written a piece in The Times with a very similar perspective.

He's written a book along similar lines, and that book (Black Box Thinking) references a really great book by Atul Gawande called The Checklist Manifesto, which is a fascinating read.  It talks about how the medical profession has learnt from the aviation (and space) industries about the use of checklists.

In The Times article Matthew Syed references Chesley Sullenberger the pilot who landed US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson in the US in 2009.  What is amazing is the calmness and ability to follow a checklist to avoid any human frailties or individual errors.

What's clear in the VAR incident where the VAR team gave the wrong decision, is that there was no process or checklist to prevent an individual failure.  The PGMOL should have come out and said we had a process failure rather than an individual human failure. For a game that doesn't suffer from being underfunded, the whole implementation of VAR is poor.

As Syed says 

" Instead, given that football is the greatest game on earth and people in football obviously know more than anyone else, they decided that they would do it their own way. We may call this “football knows best syndrome”

He goes on 

"Football, let me suggest, is hubris institutionalised. Its masters assume that because the game is (to some people) a religion, they are gods. I was against VAR from the outset, by the way, fearful that it would destroy the spontaneity of a fast-flowing game but not even I could imagine how poorly it would be implemented. The Premier League, in their infinite wisdom, took no time to learn lessons from other industries, let alone other sports, about how to avoid human error in high-pressure decision-making. They thought they knew best. They were — hopelessly, comically — wrong."

I completely agree, the equivalent VAR processes in both Rugby and Cricket are much simpler, effective and transparent to the fans of their respective sports, it's seem incredible that football has managed to get this so far wrong.

The other parallel to me, is that the Premier League has got fixated on a single human error, rather than the leadership standing up and saying "we designed a poor process" which allowed a single error to escalate into a significant failing".  It reminds me of both the VW dieselgate process, where only one engineer was initially charged, and the Equifax data breach where again one engineer was blamed for not correctly scanning for a vulnerability.  In both cases, there were individual failings, but both were wider process failings.


Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.