This season was the first which involved the use of video assistant referees in the Premier League - and it's fair to say it had its ups and downs! With the use of lines on the screen for offsides, a new handball rule and a lack of using pitchside monitors, VAR was a talking point just about every week as the league acclimatised to the new technology. Former Premier League referee and Sportsmail columnist Mark Clattenburg gives his thoughts on VAR's debut season in English football.
Remember when David McGoldrick was denied his first Premier League goal because John Lundstram’s big toe was millimetres offside in the build-up? Sheffield United’s supporters were going wild at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but after a four-minute examination at Stockley Park, they were sucker-punched. But this is not the technology’s fault. This is down to the lawmakers, and the offside law is one which the International Football Association Board (IFAB) need to address. In football, everybody wants to see goals. That’s what makes the game exciting. Yet our attackers are being left at a severe disadvantage. We get frustrated when we see Stockley Park zooming in to see whether an armpit is offside, but the VAR is just doing what he’s told to do. It’s the law that’s to blame for this.
A defender accidentally handles the ball in his own box and nothing happens. An attacker accidentally handles the ball and his goal gets chalked off. It’s not right but, as with offside, this is not the fault of the VAR. They are only following the letter of the law and it’s the law which needs to be looked at. Everybody accepts that if someone does a Diego Maradona against England in 1986, or a Thierry Henry against the Republic of Ireland in 2009, then that deserves ruling out. But we saw the uproar after Harry Kane’s equaliser against Sheffield United was disallowed because of a handball by Lucas Moura. He knew nothing about it. Did that deserve to rob that game of a goal? I don’t think so.
The little shake of the head and shrug from Mike Dean after the VAR awarded Arsenal an early penalty against Watford on Sunday said it all. Dean hadn’t pointed to the spot after a collision between Craig Dawson and Alexandre Lacazette at the Emirates Stadium. But the VAR looked at it and, after three minutes, decided it was a foul by Dawson. Why not let Dean use that time to decide for himself by using the pitchside monitor? The on-field referee is seeing his calls over-ruled by Stockley Park and that’s frustrating. But the ignoring of monitors is not entirely down to the direction of the PGMOL and its boss Mike Riley. Clubs have made it clear they do not want the flow of the games interrupted.
Lack of leadership
I want to see a leader leading and Mike Riley, the head of the PGMOL, does not engage with the media. He sends others to do that, such as Dermot Gallagher on Sky Sports. Gallagher is always looking to support the referees. I get that it might be good for morale but sometimes the truth would be nicer. Educate us on why the Premier League does it differently to other leagues. Explain the shunning of monitors. Go back to basics and let the referees be referees. I’m seeing officials out there who are too afraid to blow their whistles because they don’t want to be told they’re wrong. VAR is about overturning clear and obvious mistakes, not causing more confusion. Riley should be encouraging his officials to be brave and make their own decisions.
VAR’s first season rating out of 10?
Six. It has not been a roaring success. Earlier this month we saw three mistakes made in a single day - when Bruno Fernandes and James Ward-Prowse won penalties for Manchester United and Southampton while Tottenham weren’t awarded one for a push by Josh King on Kane. There is plenty of room for improvement but it’s the laws which need changing first and foremost. Accidental handballs and offside armpits are what have upset the rhythm of the Premier League, stripping games of excitement.
Source: Daily Mail