What are the big issues being talked about in the world of football right now? We’ve taken a closer look to see at what’s got fans, clubs, managers and boards hot under the collar.

Should VAR technology be introduced in English football?

The use of video technology to review refereeing decisions has been one of the standout topics of recent months and its future in the English game is still hotly debated.

The Video Assistant Referee – or VAR for short – works by having a team of people reviewing video footage of refereeing decisions made on the pitch. Four types of decisions can be reviewed: goals and any related violations on the way to them, penalties, red cards and mistaken identity in awarding a card. A decision can then be overturned by VAR if a “clear error” was made.

The technology’s first major rollout was at last year’s Confederations Cup. It was used for the first time in England in November 2017 when the home side faced Germany in a friendly and made its competitive debut on 8 January this year, when Brighton & Hove Albion played Crystal Palace in the FA Cup.

VAR will also be used at the World Cup in Russia this summer – marking its first appearance at the tournament – and is already at work in many top European football leagues, including the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A.

But in English football, the formal introduction of the technology continues to experience a rather bumpy ride. Although it looks like it’s more a case of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’ it will be introduced at some point down the line.

Should safe standing be allowed?

Another issue grabbing the headlines is ‘safe standing’ and there is a UK-wide movement underway that is aiming to see its introduction in English football stadiums.

Safe standing allows fans to stand on a terrace in rows which are separated by a rail to ensure there are no safety issues caused by crowd surges. A typical system can allow up to 80 per cent more spectators per row, compared to standard seating.

While safe standing is already in place at many German clubs and Celtic Park in Scotland, it is currently outlawed in the top two divisions of English football.

All-seater stadiums were introduced following recommendations from the Taylor Report, after the Hillsborough disaster saw 96 Liverpool fans lose their lives. However, proponents of safe standing say that it is safer than having people standing in fully-seated areas, and helps improve the atmosphere on matchdays.

Works are currently underway to install safe standing at Shrewsbury Town, who will become the first club in England to turn part of an all-seater stadium to such use.

A petition calling for all Premier League and Championship football clubs to be allowed to introduce safe standing, is currently approaching 100,000 signatures – at which point, the issue will be considered for debate in Parliament.

Should the Premier League take a break?

The Premier League, together with the Football Association and English Football League, have been considering ways to ease fixture congestion. One idea on the table, is the possibility of introducing a form of winter break.

Some of the top leagues across Europe, including La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A, already take midseason breaks. Unlike these countries though, who have a complete shutdown in December, the Premier League is proposing a staggered match schedule.

If plans are agreed, then from February 2020 all 20 clubs would have at least 13 days between games (meaning there is still football being played every weekend). However, there are some hurdles yet to iron out.

We may not have long to wait though, as a decision is expected to be made before the end of the 17/18 season.

Should all clubs be investing in a fan zone?

One of the stand-out developments that can be witnessed happening at football stadiums across the UK and Europe in recent years, is the introduction of dedicated fan zones.

While most sports grounds will offer some form of catering and merchandising outlets, the way such services are delivered is getting increasingly sophisticated. Clubs are aware now, more than ever before, of the need to provide a positive fan experience, is they’re to drive up attendances and matchday revenue. This has seen the popularity of fan zones soar, and in clubs of all shapes and sizes.

A static fan zone will typically be created in an external area of the ground, using pop up shops and other portable structures. It may include activities and features, including eateries, shops, family areas, a live stage area and big screens.

Fan zones will usually open for a few hours before and after a match, offering an environment in which spectators can gather for the pre-match build up, while also encouraging a positive atmosphere and prolonging the time fans are on site – all beneficial for growing matchday revenue and helping fans feel a part of something.

While early pioneers in this area continue to reap the benefits and to consider ways to expand their offering, many other clubs are now looking to follow in their footsteps. We’re sure there will be many announcements and grand unveilings in the coming months.

Should England go to the World Cup in Russia?

If you type ‘should England’ into Google, you can quickly see just how big a debate is going on around the question of whether England should go to the World Cup. From just those two words, the top suggestions are all related to the tournament and England’s attendance.

While the rewarding of the World Cup to Russia was itself a controversial decision, recent events have left many questioning whether England should withdraw from the tournament all together.

The poisoning on English soil of a former Russian spy and his daughter, which has been suggested as ‘highly likely’ to be the work of Russian, has led some British officials to suggest boycotting the World Cup.

In a poll run by Sky News, from almost 38,000 participants, over 50% voted yes to withdrawing from the World Cup, while 29% said no, believing it wouldn’t achieve anything.

Speaking at a press conference, England manager Gareth Southgate confirmed that players who are uncertain about the safety of travelling to Russia, would be allowed to opt out, saying ‘it’s always an individual decision.’

Plus, a bonus question that’s hit the headlines this week…

Should Arsene Wenger choose his replacement?

The sporting world was shocked to learn of the departure of Arsene Wenger, who has announced he is to step down as manager of Arsenal at the end of this season.

The matter of who will replace him and take on one of the most sought-after roles in European football, is a matter of huge debate.

When Alex Ferguson left Manchester United, he wasn’t shy about his preferred chose of successor – a wish that went on to be fulfilled (albeit other factors were also at play). So, with the board reportedly split over who should fill his shoes, should Wenger have the final say? We’re sure he’ll have an opinion.

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