It was remarkable to listen to the audio release of the Var conversations that took place during Liverpool’s defeat by Tottenham on Saturday. The staggering incompetence was laid bare for everyone to see and hear - it is a terrible look for everyone involved, not least Professional Game Match Officials Limited and Darren England, the Var at the centre of the controversy.
I can guarantee to you that if this conversation was played over the public address systems around Premier League grounds across the country, this type of mistake would never be made again. There would have been riots had fans heard what was going on at Tottenham’s stadium. If officials knew that their conversations would be made public, live, then that would focus the minds completely and you can be sure no errors like this would be made.
It comes down to protocol, once again. It is clear that there is no protocol in place for dealing with these types of situations - something as simple as a tick-box system should be used to ensure people know what they are looking for, or at. Is this a check for offside? Is this a check for a red card? What is the referee’s on-field decision? Lay it out in simple terms.
When Howard Webb’s first show came out that released recordings of past incidents, it was evident to me that it was a load of garbage, to be honest with you. The conversations were so garbled, and it just felt so confused. I did not even see the need for lines to be drawn on this one, as it was so clear Luis Diaz was onside.
Honestly, I could not believe what I was listening to when PGMOL released what happened - it is a good thing they have done this, but ultimately it shines a light on how incompetent the decision making is, and it will only serve to stoke the flames among supporters who feel aggrieved at such decision making. Now you have listened to that excerpt, you are bound to start wondering what similarly garbage conversations have happened with other incidents. Fans already have a great amount of suspicion around referees, Var and their ability to make the right decisions - this will only make things worse, given the content in the audio release.
I was staggered by the level of communication on show in the short clip released on Tuesday night. There was no joined-up thinking, clarity of thought or any sort of collaborative approach. It appeared people were passing the buck until it all dawned on them what happened, and how they could not - or did not want to - rectify it.
As a former official, of course I had some sympathy with England, especially when it dawned on him the gravity of his error when he is captured on audio saying, “Oh, f---”. It’s likely to be the worst decision he has ever made and nobody, whether a former referee or a fan of the game, wants to see people make such grave errors of judgment.
One of the key takeaways I had around the audio release was the notion among all the guilty parties that they “couldn’t do anything”.
The replay operator, Mo Abby, tells the team to “delay”.
“Pardon?” came the response, as if this was such an alien concept to deliver.
“Can’t do anything,” England says as Var. I am not going to hide behind the laws of the game here, which state that if play has been restarted (which it had) then it could not be called back to resolve the error.
England clearly is applying the laws of the game here, but that is just the wrong thing to do in this instance. There is the laws of the game and then there is context, the spirit of the game, and doing the right thing. The right thing would be to resolve the situation and correct this most basic of errors.
Blindingly claiming you cannot do anything because the laws said so is another strand to the mess.
One of my overriding emotions from the release of the audio, though, is one of disappointment. Once again the standard of refereeing and Var in this country has proven to be not up to scratch and this is on Howard Webb to sort out, as this is the biggest crisis of officialdom I can remember.