AFTER almost three years of testing, VAR arrives in the Premier League this season.
Referee’s bosses and the English game have finally come up with a way to use replays to help officials in the richest league in the world.
But the way VAR is used in the Premier League will be different from other competitions, as the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd come up with their own way of implementing the laws of the game.
The aim is to avoid a repeat of the farcical scenes witness in the Women’s World Cup which saw a series of matches ruined by constant interference from the video ref.
When can VAR be used in Premier League games?
VAR will be used in all 360 Premier League matches this season.
It will only be used for incidents involving:
- each goal scored
- each penalty awarded
- each straight red card shown
- cases of mistaken identity
The technology cannot be used to advise on:
- yellow cards, including second yellows
- potential fouls in ordinary open play
- to decide on corner or throw-in awards.
VAR can also alert officials of incidents of foul play missed by a referee, such as an off-the ball incident.
When is the Clear and Obvious Error rule applied?
Subjective decisions are the only ones where the clear and obvious rule is applied, and the PGMOL have instructed officials there should be a high bar in place before overturning decisions.
Incidents that are subjective include potential fouls given or not, simulation and handballs.
Factual decisions will not be subject to the clear and obvious test – they are treated as yes/no decisions.
These factual decisions revolve around:
- was a player offside?
- was a foul in or out of the penalty area?
- was the ball in or out of play leading up to a goal?
That means even the tightest of offside decisions will be taken as factual yes or no, whether there was an obvious mistake made or not
How long can VAR take in the Premier League?
During the Women’s World Cup, one incident was watched back 29 times on reply before a decision was made, taking four-and-a-half minutes to make a ruling.
The PGMOL and Premier League are desperate to avoid this.
VAR officials have been told they can review an incident a maximum of three times at full speed, and three slow motion replays – and if an offence is not clear and obvious at that point, they should move on.
League data shows that when a goal has been scored in PL matches, play is resumed on average 62 seconds later due to teams celebrating etc.
In the 69 real-time tests undertaken by the PGMOL, most goals are cleared by officials within that time.
When there have been goals overturned, the average time take to reach that decision is 84 seconds.
If an offence has taken place earlier in a passage of play before a goal is scored, the on-field referee firstly, and the VAR secondly, will determine whether it had directly affected that phase of play.
If a new phase of play has started, any previous offence is written off.
Will in-game referees have to check pitch-side monitor before making a VAR decision in the Premier League?
The short answer is no.
Figures show that each time officials have checked a pitch-side TV, play has been held up by 90 seconds, badly interrupting the flow of the game.
In the Premier League, the majority of incidents will be reviewed by the VAR with access to the replays and the on-pitch ref will accept their decision without needing to check.
The only time the monitor in the ground will be used is for incidents which the referee has missed, usually surrounding serious foul play, which has been spotted by the VAR.
What will fans in Premier League grounds be told about VAR checks?
When checks have been made an no action is needed, the game will be allowed to continue without issue so no messages will be relayed to supporters in the stands.
If VAR has overruled an incident, messages will be displayed on the screens in all grounds explaining why and showing a replay or image of the decisive moment.
This includes showing a replay when a player has been ruled to have dived to earn a penalty which the on pitch ref had incorrectly awarded.
How will fans at Old Trafford and Anfield be told about VAR decisions as they have no screens?
Manchester United and Liverpool are the only two sides in the Premier League without a big screen in the stadium.
In this case, messages may be made on the electronic scoreboards and stadium announcers will be asked to relay the decision over the tannoy so fans can understand what has happened.
How many VAR officials are there in the Premier League and where are they based?
There are 23 trained up Video Assistant Referees – the 18 class one refs already on the Premier League rota and the top five from those in the Championship.
They will be based on the VAR hub at the Premier League productions offices in Stockley Park, near Heathrow Airport.
Each match will have one VAR, one assistant VAR, and one person responsible for providing the replays.
The assistant is only in place to continue watching live action while the VAR is making a decision while a game is still taking place.
Only the VAR can make a decision, they cannot consult their assistants alongside them.
Will VAR rule on handballs and goalkeepers at penalties in Premier League games?
The Premier League are interpreting the laws of the game differently to the way matches were reffed in the Champions League and at the Women’s World Cup.
For handballs, the PGMOL bar is set higher for an official to award a penalty than we saw in Europe and at the World Cup. VAR can only intervene in cases of clear and obvious error, which should result in less interference.
With goal-line technology in place, at penalties the only job of the assistant referee on pitch is to spot if a goalkeeper comes off the line before the spot-kick has been taken.
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VAR can make a ruling on it, but only if there is a clear and obvious error missed by the on pitch official – they will not be scrutinising to the extent the women saw in France.
The chief role of VAR on penalties will be to spot encroachment into the area – and only offences which directly affect whether a goal has been scored or not.
It can also rule on a player feigning at the point of contact taking the kick, or if there has been a double-touch by the striking player.