VAR – hope the curtains will be drawn back



I was determined not to talk about VAR again this week but something of interest caught my eye yesterday.

On Sky Sport`s Monday Night Football show, the so-called referees’ chief Howard Webb, talked through selected audio clips from incidents in this season’s Premier League, as part of a drive from Professional Game Match Officials Limited for greater transparency and to “draw back the curtain” on the work of referees and VARs.

Monday night’s review could become a much more regular feature in the English game next term, but one question Webb repeatedly faced is why the conversations between on-pitch officials and VARs cannot be transmitted live.

Webb pointed out the laws of the game do not allow it. An application to trial live communications from referees in this season’s Coupe de France final and the 2023-24 Ligue 1 season was refused last month by the game’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board.

It is believed any trial of the communication between on-field officials and VARs is unlikely to be considered for the time being, partly because of concerns raised by the refereeing community at international level.

Those concerns centre around how such conversations could be standardised, when referees communicate in different ways to their on-pitch assistants and to VARs, and the effect it may have on how referees behave, and the questions they ask of VARs and their assistants.

All very laudable, but surely the questions to be asked are “Why is there no consistency on decisions?” “When is a penalty, not a penalty?” and “Why aren’t obvious howlers by the referee picked up?”

By Simon Leyland

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