From what it appears, it’s pretty clear that Premier League is all set to stay with the VAR technology going forward. The top-tier English football tournament has ruled out any major changes to VAR after 20 of its clubs had a meeting with the organisers recently.
Video Assistant Referring or VAR has been surrounded by all kinds of controversies ever since it was introduced in the tournament this summer. Very recently, it was criticised for a Sheffield United goal against Tottenham that was disallowed for offside, as well as the Trent Alexander Arnold handball in the Liverpool vs Manchester City game which didn’t result in a penalty. On the whole, VAR technology has impacted the game of football, football betting and English Premier League greatly.
Correct decisions increased 10% compared to last season
Premier League acknowledged that there have indeed been problems related to the technology and also apologised to Everton football club on behalf of the referees (through the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the refereeing body) after a penalty was wrongly awarded to Brighton in their 3-2 win over Everton. However, the officials also felt that VAR is doing exactly what it was always meant to do, and that the percentage of correct decisions have increased by 10% compared to the last season.
Mike Riley, the PGMOL General Manager was scheduled to address the Premier League clubs in the bi-annual shareholders meeting held in London recently. While everyone expected lengthy discussions in the meeting, Riley was clear that these are still early days for the VAR technology and the problems can still be worked upon. Surprisingly, majority of the clubs also shared his view.
The Premier League lead for VAR referees, Neil Swarbrick echoed the same sentiment during an interview given to the BBC recently. He said, “We have more decisions correct with VAR than without it. If the mark now is seven [out of 10], in two years’ time I’m hoping for maybe an eight and a half or nine. We are open to evolving with this – it’s not a case of ‘we’re not budging’. We will listen to feedback and where we can improve things we will do.”
IFAB rules out playing on-field referee and VAR conversation on public address system
Other stakeholders apparently seemed to have taken the PGMOL and Premier League at their word. Any changes that are made to the technology prior to the end of the ongoing season are expected to be only cosmetic in nature. Everyone agreed that one particular area that must be improved significantly is the fans’ experience inside the stadiums. Premier League expressed that their options are limited considering the terms involved in the VAR protocols which were specified by the International Football Associations Board.
A popular suggestion made by everyone was to play the audio feed between VAR and the on-field referee on the public address system. Such approach has worked pretty well in the NFL and the Rugby Union. However, this was flatly ruled out by the IFAB.