WHUISA Chair Sue Watson has taken a trip to Stockley Park, the “home” of the Video Assistant Referee to see at first hand exactly how the system will be implemented over the course of the forthcoming season.
The event was held last Thursday, 25th of July and hosted by Premier League Productions.
A recent WHUISA Twitter poll resulted in 53 per cent of respondents thinking VAR should continue albeit with modifications and the conference addressed this widespread concern.
There was a focus on how the VAR should not affect on the intensity or tempo of matches, a clear concern of poll respondents. Testing over the last two years has focused on learning from the experience of UEFA in the Champions League and FIFA during the 2018 World Cup.
Premier League clubs voted unanimously to introduce VAR as of this season and are committed to the use of VAR as set out in the International Football Association Board Protocol.
The Premier League view is the system will ensure more correct decisions.
VAR will come into use in the PL from Friday, 9th August at the first game of the new season. It will be used for “clear and obvious errors” and/or “serious missed incidents” with a mandate for four match changing situations: Goals, penalties, direct red cards and mistaken identity
These situations will be automatically checked without a signal from the referee even if the final decision, as always, will be taken by the match official on the field of play. Players have been instructed they must play to the whistle in the expectation the tempo and intensity of the game will be maintained.
While it is acknowledged there will never be 100 per cent accuracy of decisions there will be an increase of key match incident accuracy from the current 82 per cent.
The use of VAR in making a factual decision regarding offside as well as judgements surrounding inside or outside the penalty area is a change to the practice.
For clear immediate goal scoring chances assistant referees will hold their flag down, and the referee will delay halting the game until the outcome of the move. VAR will then check using three dimensional lines to determine offside positions. Assistant referees will still flag if they see a clear offside offence.
We all had the opportunity to see how this will work in practice at a VAR station. Given the number of camera angles, slow motion replays and high level of accuracy of the lines it is difficult to argue against the VAR based decisions.
The Premier League are clear it is important to minimise the amount of time used on VAR.
The move that leads directly to a goal is critical in deciding from when VAR will start to review. However, the gaining of possession by the defending team, or the ability of the defence to re-set is also considered. The immediate phase is checked, not multiple phases leading up to a goal.
For penalties VAR will look at: Clear errors on goalkeeper movement – this means excessive early movement before the kick is taken. A double touch from the penalty taker. Feigning by penalty taker at the moment of taking the kick. Encroachment that has a direct impact on the outcome of the penalty kick.
For decisions of incidents off the ball, for example, elbows to the face, scuffles and so on, there will be a window where a review can take place. If the ball is in play, this will be at the next restart. If the ball is out of play, this will be the second restart. The VAR officials will review the incident and discuss possible actions, as play goes on. It is expected this will minimise impact on flow of game.
All overturned decisions will be shown on the large screens in the stadium. For Manchester United and Liverpool, where there are no screens the the scoreboards and electronic advertising banners will be used instead.
Following the checking screen will be the decision, and then a clip of action that led to the decision then “VAR complete”. All will be accompanied by information from the PA system.
The criterion for overturning subjective decisions made on-field by officials will be “Clear and obvious error”.
Every goal scored at a PL stadium will be automatically checked with the anticipation the process will be completed before goal celebrations have finished.
It is expected the use of pitch-side monitors will be minimal as a Premier League official will be part of the VAR team and provide rapid advice to the referee.
Every review is aimed to be taken as rapidly as possible with minimal impact on the game - the aim is minimum interference, maximum benefit.