VAR in the Premier League has felt “made up as they go along” after another spate of controversy, the Sunday Supplement panel agreed.
Giovani Lo Celso was given a major let off by the video official David Coote in Spurs’ 2-1 defeat at Chelsea in Saturday’s early kick-off after stamping on Cesar Azpilicueta – but within minutes the PGMOL, the Premier League’s professional refereeing body, had apologised for the ‘human error’ and admitted he should have been sent off.
Coote was also in the chair for a controversy-laden Leicester defeat to Manchester City later in the day, where Kevin De Bruyne avoided punishment for what appeared a clear handball from a free-kick before Dennis Praet was penalised when the ball hit his arm later in the game.
On that occasion, the PGMOL said De Bruyne’s hand had been in a “natural position to protect his face”, which left Jonathan Northcroft, chief football writer at the Sunday Times, feeling referee chiefs had no consistency to their approach with managing the still fledgling VAR system.
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“It’s a natural position if you want to put your hand in front of your face to protect it, but that’s been a penalty since football began,” he said. “With that explanation from the PGMOL, there’s been a sense ever since the implementation that they’ve been making things up as they go along.
“They haven’t had a consistent vision of how they want it implemented, it always feels made up. Yesterday really felt like that. There were two decisions, very similar, different reasons, different outcomes.
“I’ve always tried to be a journalist who doesn’t write about the refereeing. My brother is a referee in Scotland, I just try to focus on the match but it’s becoming impossible. Yesterday you couldn’t ignore VAR at Leicester.
“It was a great game of football between the two teams, Manchester City were more or less on their best form, Leicester were really dangerous at moments, it would have been lovely to write about that – but we had three contentious decisions involving the same VAR that we’d had making the decisions in the Spurs-Chelsea game.
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“I don’t think we’ve had a situation before yesterday where Stockley Park has commented almost straight away. That seemed a very new thing. Brendan Rodgers brought it up, saying he found it staggering that he was driving in and the VAR who was about to do his game was already the subject of an apology from Stockley Park by then.
“Why did they suddenly explain in the middle of a matchday that they had got something wrong when they hadn’t before? It just feels like that’s reacting in the moment.”
The International Football Association’s Board, IFAB, will meet in Belfast next week to discuss issues including VAR and the laws of the game, with the controversy around the video system likely to be on the agenda.
Darren Lewis, football writer at the Daily Mirror, told the Supplement there was a simple solution to the current issues officials are facing.
He said: “I think what’s going to come out of it is them asking why the English are not using the instruction we’ve given them? I think everyone is tired of talking about but it’s so simple – just have a monitor, and if you have to look at an incident for more than 30 seconds or a minute, it’s not clear and obvious.
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