The use of VAR for the first time in the Premier League bewildered fans and experts alike at the weekend, prompting demands for change.
The Video Assistant Referee system, previously used in England in the FA and League Cups, is supposed to eradicate any doubt that the right decision has been taken over goals, penalties and other key moments.
There were several contentious calls. They included a penalty retaken by Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero because of encroachment by defenders in the 5-0 hammering of West Ham. There was also a disallowed goal for Wolverhampton Wanderers Leander Dendoncker due to the ball striking team-mate Willy Boly on the arm before he scored.
“We are going to have to play with our hands chopped off in future,” was the reaction from Wolves captain Conor Coady.
Alan Shearer, though, took issue with leaving the paying fans inside the stadium unaware of why the decision has either been taken or over-ruled.
TV viewers, in contrast, see the images being studied by the VAR referee – based in a studio in a suburb in the west of London – although they cannot hear the conversation between the officials.
“What would be a massive improvement for me would be if the fans could actually hear what the referee is hearing from the VAR officials,” Shearer wrote in his column for The Sun.
“After all, the fans pay the money to be inside the stadium and watch their team play, so if they can hear why the referee or the VAR official has come to a particular decision then that would benefit everyone. If they know why the decision has been made and they can hear it then it would give them a better understanding of what’s going on.”
Lack of transparency
The lack of transparency was highlighted in Martin Samuel’s column for The Daily Mail, in which he revealed that after the match neither West Ham nor Manchester City directors knew why Aguero’s penalty had been retaken.
“The reason for the re-shoot was sent, by email, to members of the press about 10 minutes after the incident; perhaps when the Premier League heard even City’s fans, whose team had benefited from the call, serenading the officials with a chorus of, ‘What the is going on?’” wrote Samuel.
Former leading English referee Keith Hackett concurred about the need for more transparency in his column for The Daily Telegraph.
“My last plea, however, would be for an even greater emphasis on transparency,” wrote Hackett. “The Premier League should publish, as a matter of routine, a breakdown of all the VAR checks made during a match, detailing what they were for and what the verdict was.
“I would also be keen on the video footage being studied in Stockley Park (where the VAR referee is based) being played on the big screen inside the grounds, so fans can understand what is happening in real time. Innovations can be hard to gain acceptance – the more transparent and open the authorities are about how they are being used, and why, the better for everyone.