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If I knew where to start I probably would. The fallout from the A-League grand final has been extreme to say the least and probably justifiable.

In short, the FFA after infuriating so many Australian football fans over recent times with their inaction and procrastination, was forced to make a public statement on Sunday. They would concede that thanks to a software hitch, the Video Assistant Referee made an error by not being able to intervene on the Melbourne Victory goal that eventually won them the title.

Had other goals followed who knows how significant it may have been. As the match winner, the focus on the Kosta Barbarouses strike from just outside the six yard box in the 9th minute only intensified.

Advertising types might jump in glee spruiking the fact that any publicity is great for the A-League and if we could have also managed to incorporate some violence, bigotry and sexism into the event, the numbers and clicks might have been even more significant. 

Sadly, there is something far bigger at stake and it revolves around a word upon which far too little emphasis is placed in this day and age: integrity.

If there was ever any question that the @ALeague is rigged, that game answers it, absolutely appalling that an Offside goal decides a Grand Final with VAR available, something has to change #NEWvMVC #aleaguegf #aleague #Jetsripped #Rigged #ffaout

— Troy Scopelliti (@Thfc_Scops) May 5, 2018

In the case of the A-League grand final, it was severely compromised.

As heart breaking as the 2016-17 grand final was for Melbourne Victory, losing in a penalty shootout to Sydney FC, the contest held its head high when all was said and done. Casual football followers tuned in to the coverage, gripped by the enthralling finish.

As dramatic as it was and no matter how many fifty-fifty calls could be debated, it had an integrity as a battle. As a result, Australian football had a win. 

This year's version feels, I imagine, something like a dirty little family secret that has finally come to light after decades of secrecy and subterfuge.

Unfortunately, the 2018 grand final will always be remembered as ‘that’ grand final. The historians won’t put a Lance Armstrong type asterisk next to it but in our minds we will all recall a bubbling Jets team dominating the first half of play without being able to hit the net and pull back an underserved Melbourne Victory lead. 

If this happened in an @NRL grand final it would be talked about for a long time - surely @FFA need to explain the VAR decision tomorrow? I just don’t get it ��‍♂️ - surely I’m not the only who thinks it’s offside? �� #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/yW5muZ9tco

— Adrian Arciuli (@Adrian_Arciuli) May 5, 2018

Sure, Melbourne Victory were outstanding in the second period and some of the Jets’ youthful legs looked to have committed a little too much to the first half effort yet the sour taste will linger after what promised so much.

The Hunter region played their role in the most part, although the sight of $1,200 tickets being sold online was disappointing. Reports of lifelong fans missing out on a ticket while wealthy fly-by-nights occupied a seat they certainly did not deserve, got the week off to something of a poor start.

It was not a shock, as the control over ticket selling in this country has been a joke for generations; yet in a regional, working class area, it reeked of injustice.

In the days following the match, social media also lit up with complaints from fans about silent and uninterested sections of the crowd, where one contact of mine was told to sit and calm down when she leapt to her feet to support her Jets early in the match. 

The move from ‘active support’ to ‘inactive support’ to seemingly ‘silent support’ is a very dangerous path for the local game to transverse. 

Since the inception of the VAR in world football, opposition has been considerable. Leagues and competitions have had myriad problems with the technology.

The reality is, the technology works. Of course it does. Only a few weeks back in the final home and away round of the A-League season we saw a fair Alex Wilkinson clearance of the line validated by the VAR. No drama, no error, no problem.

More than willing to be VAR for every game in the 18/19 A-League season. Will do every game from my couch Al Bundy style & get every decision right. #ALeagueGF

— Ned Zelic (@NedZelic) May 5, 2018

The kicker is, that it doesn’t work all the time. All season we have seen excellent handball and off-side decisions yet at the same time witnessed bizarre interpretations that defy our logic as football fans. 

In essence, humans alone are more than capable of making the same errors and without so much wasted time.

Personally, I wanted to write about the amazing first half of Dimitri Petratos on the left hand side for the Jets; how he dazzled the Victory defence. An entire piece on Lawrence Thomas, perhaps even a novel would do his performance justice and the resilience in defence of Thomas Deng deserved more than most people realised.

I’ll hold that off for a couple of days considering Greg O’Rourke’s statement on Sunday, made without any apparent understanding of just what a big mistake it was. It  justified the human angst around the match; the FFA had nowhere to hide.

As much as it pains me to say, in terms of grand finals, last year we nailed it, this year we stuffed it.


Categories: Opinion | A-League

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