What is VAR, how does it work and what are the biggest problems?

Mikel Arteta’s side are leading the way, but Manchester City and Liverpool are hot on their heels (Martin Rickett/PA) (PA Archive)

Wolves manager Gary O’Neil exclaimed: “What’s the point of VAR?” His side felt disadvantaged after more decisions proved crucial in the defeat at Fulham. Newcastle boss Eddie Howe branded a penalty against his own club in stoppage time against Paris Saint-Germain as ‘a bad decision’ that ‘looks completely different’ in a delayed replay as referees watch on monitors.

The current situations come after an increase in the use of technology in football in recent years, but none seems to cause as many heated debates and questions as that of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

In general, it is felt that small and visible calls are improved over the course of the season, with referees receiving additional help on the field. However, there have been several high-profile incidents in recent times that have led to clubs, or the staff within them, complaining about the final decision or decision-making process, with another recent incident in the Champions League on the horizon.

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag felt saddened by the fact that they suffered a number of negative decisions in their 4-3 defeat to FC Copenhagen, including the decision to send off Marcus Rashford for serious foul play.

But the other side of the debate is that – without being absolute, specific rules about what is and is not a foul, where a decision should or should not be made, and so on – the bar is set for where VAR steps in and decides on whether or not to allow incidents seems much higher in the Premier League than in European competition.

It is widely believed on these shores that the penalty against Newcastle would not have been awarded for PSG in England, nor would Jarrell Quansah’s late goal for Liverpool against Toulouse have been disallowed for a handball against Alexis Mac Allister much earlier in the pre-season. . But none of these cases have occurred in the Premier League, and referees in Europe – under the UEFA banner – have different angles and different levels of intervention.

Here’s everything you need to know about VAR, including the latest causes of complaints against it.

What went wrong?

Newcastle often felt offended that a penalty was awarded for handball after no VAR review was made during open play, in the final minute of stoppage time in their 1-1 draw against PSG.

Earlier in the competition, Man United complained about Rashford’s red card, which was handed out for stepping over an opponent’s foot and shin. Ten Hag insisted his side had seen three “very questionable” penalties against them in four games and called the sending off of his attacker “very harsh”.

In domestic football, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta complained about ‘unacceptable’ errors from on-pitch and VAR officials as his team lost to Newcastle, while Wolves boss O’Neil still feels unfairly treated over the use of the technology .

Earlier this season he labeled a penalty decision against his team and confirmed by VAR as “disgraceful” – including against Newcastle. VAR sent referee Michael Salisbury to the screen to award a penalty after Joao Gomes brought Harry Wilson into the penalty area, and Willian scored his second penalty of the match to seal all three points for Fulham. O’Neil highlighted the decisions regarding the late penalty, Carlos Vinicius’ alleged headbutt on Max Kilman and why Tim Ream was not given a second yellow for a foul on Hwang Hee-Chan, while the Whites’ first penalty, awarded for a Nelson Semedo’s foul over Tom Cairney was also controversial. Note that VAR would never have intervened on Ream, as they only get involved in direct red card infringements, and not in second yellow cards.

Ange Postecoglou recently suggested that clubs should take some of the blame for long stoppages for VAR, saying: “Some of it is our own fault because if we complain about decisions every week, that will happen every decision is being forensically scrutinized and we’ll sit through each match for a long time to figure out what’s going on.

However, it should be noted that the vast majority of these are subjective opinions and where Arteta sees mistakes, another manager, supporter or even official may see justification in the decision.

    (Getty Images)    (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

One incident that was not subjective, but was instead a clear error, came when Luis Diaz’s goal for Liverpool against Tottenham was disallowed for offside and subsequently allowed to remain disallowed, despite the VAR officials conducting their processes and demonstrating that the attacker was offside. The “significant human error” came as the referee, Darren England, appeared to forget that an offside rather than a goal had actually been awarded.

At another extreme, Millie Bright criticized the fact that this was the case No VAR in the first edition of the Women’s Nations League, after a clear offside goal was allowed against England that could have been easily ruled out.

Further obvious VAR errors for which PGMOL had to apologize include a penalty not being awarded to Wolves against Man United after Andre Onana Sasa Kalajdzic had clattered, a Brentford goal against Arsenal not being properly controlled without offside lines being drawn and that a late equalizer was awarded for West Ham. out for a violation, none of which was visible.

What went well?

In reality, quite a lot.

It is overlooked if three or four calls are exactly right, if one causes serious complaints or is at least a subjective call that a majority seems to disagree with.

For example, in the incident-filled match between Tottenham and Chelsea, several goals were rightly disallowed for offside through the use (or control) of VAR, and the penalty awarded that saw Cristian Romero sent off was also the result of intervention by the VAR.

In general, these calls, which are widely accepted as correct, are not emphasized, in part because the technology exists for that very reason: it is expected to help officials make the right decisions on a second look.

    (Getty Images)    (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

However, that does not mean that they do not occur. The Premier League reported that 82 percent of decisions were correct in the season before VAR was introduced, rising to 94 percent in 2019/20.

What is the procedure for VAR checks?

From the Premier League website: VAR will only be used for “clear and obvious mistakes” or “serious missed incidents” in four match-changing situations: goals; penalty decisions; direct red card incidents; and mistaken identity.

When any of these match situations occur or may arise, VAR continuously monitors and monitors the match footage from the hub at Stockley Park.

If a decision has to be made, the VAR or Assistant VAR (AVAR) will inform the referee that play must be stopped while checks are carried out, before a reversal, an on-field check of the referee’s monitor or a continuation is recommended. of the game with the original decision on the field.

Until the ball goes dead, the video officials have informed the referee that a check is in progress if the game is already in progress.

The referee can then check the monitor or accept the VAR advice. When viewing the on-field monitor, they can then stick to their own initial assessment or reverse the original, before communicating their new decision to the public.

What did PGMOL say?

Professional Game Match Officials Limited’s chief referee, Howard Webb, took over the role last year to improve the standard of refereeing in the English game and oversee smoother use of technology.

PGMOL confirmed to the League Managers’ Association “that they are actively looking at the best way to incorporate VARs into refereeing teams on matchdays, to ensure that the dynamic between on-field refereeing and VAR is conducive to producing positive results. “

After the Diaz incident, the organization “acknowledged[d] significant human error has occurred” and additional processes have been put in place to prevent recurrence. They also released the audio of that incident, an “unusual step” according to Webb, “to show everyone what quickly became clear to us: human error and loss of concentration.”

Webb has suggested the pool of VAR-specific officials will be increased, but Lee Mason offers a cautionary tale. The former referee was appointed as full-time VAR for the 2022/23 season, but left the role last season following the aforementioned mistake in Brentford’s goal against Arsenal. Mason, who had previously been dropped from the leaders list in that campaign for wrongly disallowing a Newcastle goal, was branded a ‘serious offender’ by ex-PGMOL boss Keith Hackett – but at the start of the current campaign, Mason was convicted again. -hired as referee coach for the lower leagues. That has not led to the question of why his credentials are suitable to guide less experienced officials, despite having already been removed from his own position.

Update: PGMOL confirmed to The Independent that Lee Mason is no longer working on VAR.

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