This Var shambles cannot go on – refereeing needs to change now

Sky Sports replay of the goal by Luis Diaz against Spurs in yesterday's premier league football match being checked by VAR for offside after the on field linesman and referee had ruled it to be offside
Luis Díaz was clearly onside, as viewers could see in the replay on Saturday evening - Sky Sports

I sat in disbelief at the sheer incompetence delivered by the video assistant referee team appointed to the Tottenham Hotspur versus Liverpool game when ruling out a terrific goal by Luis Díaz.

Díaz had timed his run to perfection, and I was surprised to see the assistant referee from a good position initially raise his flag ruling he was offside.

“NO, NO, NO!” I shouted at the television! “You have got that one wrong!”

It was a clear and obvious error, so I assumed the Var would intervene and allow the goal to stand. I then awaited the intervention of Darren England, the designated Var, who was sitting alongside the experienced video assistant referee, Dan Cook, to award the goal.

Inexplicably, they stood by the on-field decision and ruled out the goal, and frankly I could not believe that another controversial decision was unfolding in front of me.

With no lines appearing to support their judgment the screenshot underpinned for me that the goal should stand. What is now clear is that because England incorrectly believed a goal had been awarded – rather than disallowed as it actually was – his response that the review was complete convinced referee Simon Hooper to stick with his decision and award Tottenham a free-kick.

The PGMOL, the governing body for professional referees in this country, must review its criteria of operation after this major blunder, as things cannot be allowed to go on like this.

I recall a similar error where Lee Mason operating as Var failed to apply the offside lines correctly. He quit his job for that mistake!

Clearly, the current system needs a process that can be followed by Var specialists – not part-timers who flip between refereeing on the field and then reviewing decisions at Stockley Park.

A checklist must be drawn up and operated to avoid a repeat error. The fact that PGMOL had to issue a statement explaining how the error took place shows, for me, that they are not operating a clear process or checklist before a decision is communicated to the referee.

PGMOL statement admitting it made an error during the Spurs v Liverpool game
PGMOL statement admitting it made an error during the Spurs vs Liverpool game - Sky Sports

I listened to Howard Webb’s first television show where we were able to listen into the conversations between Var and referees. It was evident that too much matey chatter was taking place when a clear specific set of guidelines need to be followed to ensure that nothing is missed. Clarity of the decision-making process is so important to accuracy.

Just like a pilot avoids catastrophe by using a detailed checklist before take-off, the PGMOL must do the same.

With such a seismic error, will the Premier League decide that the game should be replayed? If they do not act, we will end up very soon in situations where teams like Liverpool will have concrete grounds to call for matches to be replayed in the event of an injustice, and the excuses for PGMOL to respond with are starting to run dry. There are only so many officials you can stand down or sack, after all.

I was a keen supporter of the introduction of Var but sadly I become less of a fan of it as the weeks pass by. Five years of operating the system have come and gone and what have we got?

A group of lazy referees who have become indecisive, reactive rather than proactive, over reliant on the safety net that Var should give them, who are happy to throw around yellow cards around like confetti at a wedding.

The Premier League made the wrong decision not to introduce the semi-automated offside system that operated well at the World Cup.

Why not? The Premier League is the richest competition in the world, spending around £26 million per season on officiating at the top of the game, and their decision was a mistake that needs to be rectified quickly.

The Uefa-enforced automated system supports the Var operators to make faster, more reproducible and more accurate offside decisions.

It has its own 12 dedicated tracking cameras to track the ball. Up to 29 data points on each individual player, 50 times per second, calculate his exact position on the field of play.

Webb needs to create a dedicated panel of Var specialists and get them trained up and operating in a much more efficient way than the current group who referee one day and sit in Stockley Park the next.

Either bin the current system altogether or improve it and recognise that issuing press releases after the game is too late when the outcome of the game hinged on this one decision.

Enough is enough.

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