The huge danger that lies ahead following the Liverpool VAR cock-up




By Tony Attwood

You will have read and probably seen the reports about the nonsense that occurred in the Tottenham / Liverpool game in which VAR made a catastrophic error, which was then not undone.   You will probably also have heard that the VAR referee contingent had been away refereeing in Saudi Arabia before “jetting back” as the papers like to say, in order to cover this Liverpool game with Tottenham.  The journey including entrances and exits to airports took around 10 hours each way.

Now the question arises, what are the footballing authorities going to do about this?   For there is a great worry that whatever they do, will be a gigantic fudge, set up more to protect the tattered image of PGMO who run refereeing in the Premier League, and to sustain the status quo, than to correct a broken system.

The measure of whether the Premier League is doing anything of note will be dependent on whether they do a patch and mend job, based on the notion that “all this fuss will pass, and let’s just keep our heads down” or whether they finally wake up to the fact that there are fundamental problems with refereeing in the Premier League.

I’m not a betting guy, but if I were, I’d put a lot of money on there being a fudge, and absolutely no reform of the autonomous PGMO and its staff – and that’s the huge danger.

The first point here is that PGMO knew well in advance that on this occasion as on other occasions PGMO staff jet around the continent doing work on the side.   They’ve done nothing to stop that and it should not take a catastrophe like this for them to realise that this moonlighting should not be part of football.  That they have allowed it is a mistake large enough for serious questions about the whole of PGMO management to be asked.  Wholesale resignations should follow if not a winding up order, for the fact that this was allowed.

The second point is that although we’ve been calling for years for there to be more referees in the PGMO pool, PGMO have consistently refused to act upon this.   Our idea first mentioned something like ten years ago, was that each referee should only see each Premier League team twice in a season, once at home and once away.   

Thus if there is a referee who is home or away biased, each club will only get the benefit of his largesse once a season.

And that takes in the third point: home and away bias by referees is a proven fact as we have shown many times before.    The numbers below come from the five most used referees in the Premier League last season, and shows the number of yellow cards each gave out per game, comparing the level of cards to the home teams and to the away teams.

Given that all these referees oversaw 26 or more games each, and were the most used referees in the Premier League last season, we can fairly state that these are, in the eyes of PGMO, the cream of the refereeing system in England.  Stats from WhoScored.


Referee Games Yel pg home Yel PG away Difference
1.Michael Oliver 30 1.73 1.17 +48%
2.Paul Tierney 30 1.90 1.90 0
3.Anthony Taylor 30 2.00 1.80 +11%
4.Simon Hooper 29 1.38 2.07 -67%
5.Robert Jones 26 1.77 2.35 -25%


Of the five referees here, two gave more cards to the home team and two gave more cards to the away team.  One was perfectly balanced.

And those differences between home or away team was huge.  Oliver gave 48% more cards to the home team than the away, while Hooper gave 67% more cards to the away team than the home team.

Now I don’t expect these numbers to be perfectly equal.,   Referee Tierney did in fact achieve this, but much of the time there will be some difference, yet not the 67% difference Referee Hooper achieved – unless one claims that away teams foul a lot more.  But then if they do, how come Oliver gave 48% more cards to the home teams than the away teams?

We know from the oft-quoted research undertaken by a range of professional research agencies that referees are influenced by the crowd, and it would seem that some refs now deliberately fight back against this crowd influence.  And if it were argued that away teams are dirtier than home teams then we can’t explain Hooper and Jones’ results.

But really, if PGMO were doing their job, they would be training referees out of this crowd influence so that they give out cards according to the fouls they see, with no difference between home and away figures.

And there is one other thing.  I may have missed the commentaries, but so far I haven’t really seen any investigation into what Tottenham are doing to get all their yellow cards.  26 so far, as opposed to 10 for Arsenal.

Last season Tottenham knocked up 75 yellows and Arsenal 52.   If things continue at the same pace this season, Tottenham will end up with 141 cards (double last year) and Arsenal 54 (much the same as last year).  Will Tottenham, I wonder, have many players left as the suspensions kick in?

11 Replies to “The huge danger that lies ahead following the Liverpool VAR cock-up”

  1. VAR should be screened live on the Ground big screens, so the managers and the refs can see that they are running full corect checks live as it is happening. This would eliminate repeated time waisted and prove its honesty. Otherwise everyone will either think they are Manchester and Spurs fans or just plainly stupid or crooked. Arsenal lost 12 pts last season from dodgy VAR decisions that cost them the title.

  2. Whilst being Arsenal nothing changed after the disgraceful failure to disallow the offside goal by Brentford in February, no doubt as Liverpool the Kings of Victimhood are bleating, the drains will be hauled up as they always have to be placated.

    With respect to refereeing the Premier League evokes a sense of what happens in some African country where a political opponent will deliberately rig you out of a deserved win in an election and sarcastically advice you “TO GO TO COURT”. In court you are likely to be led a dramatic legal rigmarole.
    The victims in the above scenario fare even better than the victim club in the EPL in that on some occasions the reverses the injustice. In contrast the maximum the offended club gets Is the GOLDEN APOLOGY of the pgmol. Meanwhile they have lost the points and some other club has benefited.
    What about proper restitution? This may be the route to a drastic reduction in these occurrences.

  4. The so-called reasons given by the pigmob for their mistake has logic which would be taken apart by a three year old but is generally reported without any editorial. Not only does this incident show the pigmob to be inept but also highlights how low the profession of scribbler has fallen. What sort of money has such a great interest in the pigmob being consistently wrong would be my first enquiry

  5. Blatant and deliberate Pgmo corruption that’s been going on since the days of Old Red Nose up in Manchester.
    What can be done ? Aside from buying advertising space in the national daily rags and highlighting Pgmo faults and providing solutions to the parlous state of affairs referee wise ; as yet I can see no other solution.

  6. I think that as points can be deducted from clubs for egregious behaviour then points should be awarded to clubs for screw ups by PGMO.
    As noted by Daveg Arsenal were materially harmed by PGMO last season and apologies just don’t cut it. Players put great effort into their sport
    as professional athletes and it’s about time referees put as much effort into their involvement and become professionals themselves.

  7. I think there is another point to be considered here. PGMOL referees are refereeing matches in Saudi Arabia and UAE. Could there be multiple conflicts of interest here? Both of these countries’ wealth funds (PIF and ADUG) finance clubs in England (Newcastle United and Man. City). Is there some sort of deal between PGMOL/FA/Premier League and these funds, or possibly worse?

    Obviously, this level of thinking is not within Shearer’s capabilities.

  8. I’m reading explanations about what happened and what I don’t understand is the explanation itself.
    I’m simplyfying here but the thing goes like this.

    – VAR checks if all is ok – there may be an offside
    – Before check is complete, VAR thinks the referee has awarded the goal
    – thus VAR stops checks and shuts up

    Now if the referee gives a goal while a VAR check is going on, what good is VAR for anyway. Because them stopping their investigation under the argument that the referee has awarded the goal goes counter the the logic of checking every goal, so it seems to me.

    That being said, as Tony pointed out, the trip to Saudi takes 10 hours at least – unless they had some private jet -, but don’t forget that on top of that you’ve got a couple of hours of not 3 of jetlag and climate lag. And do it as you want, you don’t come unscathed out of such a trip – says a guy who’s clocked close to 2 million miles an still travels monthly. To me there is no darn way these guys were work fit.

    And frankly, I don’t believe a simgle word about : they moonlight. To me this stinks like a deal between PGMOL and the Saudis under the ‘well help you by sending our best please send us your best check’ banner. No damn way the VAR guys can create their own business aside from PGMOL and the PL. Or it was FIFA sanctionned and thus aproved by PGMOL who, as I’ve argued for years, just proved their total and utter incompetence and now throw the referees under the bus.

  9. Off topic Tony but the following item has appeared on the BBC website today highlighting how security staff fraudulently obtain work licences by undertaking sham courses where they are given the answers to tests and simply do not undertake the required training.

    Given your previous articles which highlighted poor practice by security staff at the Emirates, one wonders whether there might be a connection?

  10. Is it coincidental that the referee at Old Trafford v Wolves regarding the penalty incident and the sorry mess at Spurs on Saturday was Simon Hooper? He was dropped by the Premier League some years ago after a poor match at Norwich. He cautioned Rodri for a predictable shirt pull and when the same player did exactly the same shortly afterwards he failed in his duty to administer a second caution. Unable to ascertain who is more incompetent – Coote or Hooper.

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