Supporters’ groups are to meet with the Premier League on Tuesday to demand action on VAR after another weekend of chaos beset video refereeing technology.
Match-going fans are increasingly concerned over VAR, with the time taken to make decisions and a lack of communication inside grounds the key points of contention. Anti-VAR chants have become a soundtrack at matches and there is concern that even the measures currently in place to help supporters – such as replays of overturned decisions – are not being used properly.
James Milner: ‘I’m not a fan of VAR … the atmosphere is being ruined’
A disallowed winning goal in the match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace and two penalties given over the head of the referee, Stuart Atwell, during Manchester United’s victory over Norwich, are the latest incidents to bring the issue into focus and the Football Supporters’ Association is calling on the Premier League to take action.
“When games have been interrupted for VAR there’s been a definite lack of communication in relaying information to fans in the stands, who have often been left scratching their heads,” said an FSA spokesperson.
“As a result many supporters feel VAR is currently having a negative impact on the game regardless of whether decisions go in favour of their team or against. VAR has to work for match-goers too.
“The FSA and fan reps are meeting with the Premier League and VAR is on the agenda – why are clubs not showing decisions on the big screen and what guidelines have been given to clubs?”
The Premier League currently allows for information about VAR decisions to be communicated in two ways: via graphics on the big screen that show a check is underway and, should a referee’s decision be overturned, via the use of video footage that helps explain the decision. At the Emirates Stadium and Carrow Road, however, there were no clips played.
This has been a common experience for fans. While decisions have been overturned, the reasons why have not been made clear in the stadium. There is some suggestion that the lack of video replays is down to a fear of the response from the crowd. But there is also uncertainty as to whose responsibility it is to ensure the clip is played, with some inside the game suggesting it is down to the club, while some clubs insist their options are determined by the PGMOL, the refereeing body that oversees the use of VAR and controls the video feed that is sent to the stadium.
While the tools that are currently available are not being best used, there are also demands that the Premier League go further and allow the audio feed that goes between the referee and the video referee to be heard by fans at relevant moments. That change would need to be authorised by the International Football Association Board (Ifab) who put in place the original VAR protocols.
Ifab addressed the topic last week, with discussion “primarily concerned with ways in which communication of the decision-making process could be improved”, according to a statement. No outcome resulted from the debate, however, with further discussions set to take place in December.
One unfortunate irony is that Arsenal fans were able to listen to the VAR during the first half on Sunday, thanks to a mistake by the BBC. A technical glitch meant that supporters heard the reasons behind a decision to overturn Martin Atkinson’s decision and to award a penalty to Palace. The error was corrected at half-time, however, meaning fans were left stumped when Sokratis Papastathopoulos’s late winner was ruled out
Premier League bid to improve VAR by introducing outlandish new technology
The Premier League is reportedly set to introduce "limb-tracking technology" developed by Hawk-Eye in order to enhance VAR decisions.
The introduction of VAR has caused controversy so far this season, particularly with a number of tight offside calls going against attacking players. The accuracy of technology to make decisions with such fine margins has come in for serious questioning - but chiefs are planning an improved system to address concerns.
According to Sportsmail , Hawk-Eye, who developed goal-line technology and the review systems in cricket and tennis, are developing a new system.
The use of multiple cameras will give video assistants access to an automated offside line in real time, tracking the back foot of every outfield player in each VAR game to provide a constant offside line to be instantly assessed when necessary. At present, video referees construct a new offside line via a use of lines on existing replays whenever an incident is reviewed, creating lengthy and frustrating delays. The new technology is designed solely to assist with offside calls, with referees' chief Mike Riley being kept updated as it is developed. The latest development comes as Premier League bosses prepare to meet to discuss a review of the current VAR system. In 100 top flight games, 26 decisions have so far been overturned, but not once has a referee consulted the pitchside monitor with officials encouraged to minimise delays by leaving decision-making to the VAR.
The Premier League's 17 Select Group One referees are set to meet with bosses on Thursday to report progress on the use of VAR this season before possible changes are made.