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How the PGMO could try to get around the use of video assistance for referees

By Tony Attwood

In recent months, Fifa has considerably accelerated the testing of the video-assistance to referees (known as VAR) procedures, which, as the chairman of Fifa (who is an awfully nice and upright fellow) has annouced, will be used during the World Cup 2018.

Now Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of the Fifa Referees Committee, and Massimo Busacca, Head of the Arbitration Department, have also announced that they are stepping up the programme of educating referees in the approach, so that they too are ready.

Although commentators in England such as Robbie Savage, have said that the approach cannot possibly work, and although the UK media is largely ignoring the development, Fifa is still pushing the process through ready for Russia.   As Collina has recently stated “the objective is to maintain the rhythm and the fluidity of the game,” adding that there will be “Minimum interference for maximum results.”

Presumably the notion of the UK media not covering all the activity that is going on in relation to having video refs in the world cups, is part of a media agreement with PGMO which prohibits any media questioning of cumulative referee decisions.   This is done, I imagine, in the hope that the arrival of the video ref in the summer of 2018 will be seen as an unexpected shock allowing another couple of years of dithering by the Premier League in cahoots with PGMO, before ultimately they agree to a much reduced mini-version of video refereeing into the PL.

But meanwhile, the work goes on and the key issue that Collina and Busacca are working on is that of knowing when to interrupt the game and when to let it continue, while losing as little time as possible with each decision made.

In order to help this process the technology now being used is described as being “Like your ipad.”   Collina explained: “You move the screen, you zoom with your fingers.”  And that seems to be it.

Which of course makes it look and sound very simple, but does apparently take some getting used to, to ensure that the referees watching the video monitors know exactly who to look at, when and where, and when exactly to freeze the picture to spot the offside, the pull on the shirt, the push in the back, the elbow in the face.  All the stuff we see going unpunished at each game.

For Clément Turpin, the Fifa listed French referee, the question of communication with technicians is also central. “They are the experts, they know the angles, the cameras. I prefer to touch it as little as possible so as not to waste time,” he stated in an interview on the issue of using the video ref approach.

In the training sessions referees follow each other into a tent set up containing all the video equipment, trying to familiarise themselves with the technology, while out on the pitch Massimo Busacca and players from Fiorentina try to catch them out with a variety of legal and illegal moves – the sort that we regularly see at the Emirates and which are never punished.

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They place the attacking player in front of the keeper so the keeper can’t see where the ball is, they try sliding tackles, there are deliberate and accidental handballs… the referee on the pitch makes the decisions in quick succession and those in the tent have to verify those decisions within a second or two.

Reports of the trial have the referees in the tent calling out, “Correct, correct. Yes, correct decision, there is nothing,” and then suddenly, “Penalty, yellow for the keeper.” Then, “wait, we’re checking again.”

The point is that in the end the VAR instructions must be brief and assured. At the moment, according to reports, as yet they are not always quite like that, so more training sessions are ordered.

Busacca is apparently pushing his trainees to make decisions in the tent faster and faster.   “How long is it to give a penalty?” he asks.  “One hour? It’s not going to be the guys, I want you to be focused.”

Sometimes it sounds like banter, sometimes it is suddenly a lot more serious.   “Penalty or not? It’s you who decides, not me. Red? There is never red my friend, never.”

As Busacca says to the media later, everyone who has tried it, is in favour.  “Our opinion  is still unanimous and all the referees who have used it and talk about it have only praise for the video assistance.”

After the trial session Dutchman Bjorn Kuipers, said, “For us it is a great friend. We are no longer alone on the pitch, and it gives a lot more certainty to the decisions of the ref.”

In one training game one of the young Fiorentina players is surprised at the lack of a penalty decision, Busacca replies, “Three referees say no, my friend. One here and two in the tent.”

As a result the referee is always right, especially when there are three of them and they have the benefit of replays.


Just supposing PGMO are looking at this, and recognising that (as we have found) quite often over half the major decisions in PL games are wrong, and that these errors are not evenly distributed between teams, so it doesn’t “even out in the end”.  For that is certainly what our figures show, over and over (and if you don’t believe it take a look at 160 games.)

What then?  Ultimately they won’t be able to stop video refereeing in the Premier League any longer, but they can’t also allow their referees to be exposed to the ridicule of getting under half their major decisions right.  So what do they do?

Look in the tent and you might find Oliver, Madley, Pawson, Taylor, Dean…  and with them giving the video referee decisions, we are going to be no better off than we were before video refereeing was introduced.

A worrying thought.





33 comments to How the PGMO could try to get around the use of video assistance for referees

  • Leon

    I get the impression that you don’t really want this to succeed.
    Give it a chance and you might even be surprised.
    I’m very much looking forward to this, but I can see how the conspirator mob will still be suspicious.

  • Leon

    conspiracy mob

  • Hunter13

    Leon ..conspiracies are done in the dark though…arsenal gets f***d on the pitch in broad daylight.

    do you not see willingness of refs to play advantage to visitors in our home ground?

    do you not see how some teams are allowed to kick elbow and push pull shove arsenal players without receiving their bookings ?

    you reckon its easy to intercept cazorla’s dribbling without fouling him? hehe…

    oh he is small and tehcnical huh? and wenger shoudl go for wanyamas cause this is england and physicality etc etc etc

    Ok thats one side of the argument, i have another: instead of the english telling us all its a contact sport to hide their football incompetence and understanding.. how about they change their mentality/approach?

    it is proven..beyond international standings and tournaments have shown that the technical approach of the spannish the dutch the germans the italians are superior to whichever english football school of thought. hell..even the americans are approaching it better than the english.

    the problem is they dont want to learn….they are not interested in football per se but the business of football and that 5 billion pound package they sell to all continents…..

    its a cartel and wenger/arsenal are outsiders.


    However mr Tony i insist….what is the club hierarchy doing to protect Arsenal interests off/on pitch? why are we semed to be boyscouts? Where is our Tywin Lannister to kick some ass in f.a, pgmol, media etc and instill order?

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    When is the VAR going to be introduced in the Premier League for application by the officiating referees? Is it as from next season’s campaign which I will prefer to see or after it has been successfully used in the 2018 World Cup?

  • Shakabula Gonner

    When is Riley retiring? When will Dean be adjudged no longer able to keep pace with the likes of Raheem Sterling?

  • Shakabula Gooner

    When is Riley retiring? When will Dean be adjudged no longer able to keep pace with the likes of Raheem Sterling?

  • Nitram

    Hunter 13

    How do you think Arsenal FC can make any kind of protest, either overtly or covertly (because that would surely come to light and be even more harshly perceived)without being slaughtered in the media, and in turn making matters even worse, if that where possible?

    I agree it’s frustrating, but honestly I just cant see what Arsenal FC, as a Club, can do about it.

  • para

    If they are not transparent showing the replays of every decision immediately or in game, then it will be even more easier to manipulate.
    They are probably rubbing their hands and saying, “Idiots, played right into our hands there”.

    On top of that “diving” is to be penalised from next season!

  • Hunter13

    Hi NItram,

    I remember ferguson moaning that he wasnt getting penalties anymore at stamford bridge since Roman arrived.

    From that i deduce that Mr Roman Abramovic takes no shit from referees. I also deduce that Mr Ferguson apparently had some control but now faced competitions from Russians in the control/command centres.

    Therefore….this is an area where the club…any club..needs to play dirty. Are we too nice to play dirty?

    Would the presence of a Dein type figure …a known fixer…a known football business personality with his own netowrk and connections help at all the situation? I dont know i can only guess. Ok i agree ..we do not want a Luciano Moggi ..its extreme… but somehting in the middle? Or de wait and hope that the world of football becomes fair and objective?

    Im not saying i agree with it but i recognise its importance. sadly

  • Hunter13

    the alternative to not protecting our players/investments on/off pitch is having our eduardos ramseys and diabys smashed to pieces and then our fans turning against wenger for not winning the treble with crippled players physically and mentally

  • Hunter13

    so ..we either need educated fans with eyes open who can see whats happening (hehe…so unrealistic)


    we bring a figure or a set up that makes Riley, Daily mail pgmol f.a shit themselves before even thinking of the name Arsenal…just like they shit themselves when they hear Roman Abramovic or Ferguson previously

    p.s this is all theoritical …

  • Hunter 13
    Not for any of the reasons discussed here, but i would love to see Dein back at the Arsenal
    As you so delicately put it, a known fixer with his own network
    This would be very much to the benefit of Arsenal
    For the reasons you discuss here, he also would be of tremendous benefit to the club, like Fergie and Abramovic he would not allow The Arsenal to get short shrift.

    Like you say, this is all theoretical, but I would love it

  • Nitram

    Hunter 13

    “Therefore this is an area where the club, any club, needs to play dirty. Are we too nice to play dirty?”

    I don’t think we’re too nice, more likely not rich enough, ergo not liked/respected enough to hold any sway what-so-ever in the corridors of power.

    Personally I don’t think Dien, or a Dien like figure, would make the slightest difference.

    Yes, Dien did have some influence, or so it seemed, back in the day, but would he now?

    I think that’s highly debateable for the reasons stated above.

    When he did hold some sway there was just Man Utd and Arsenal dominating. Just the 2 superpowers. It was solely us 2 that where selling the PL to the World at that time. Of course he held some power back then, but today it’s different.

    Money is power, and as someone said on here a few weeks ago, Arsenal as a club actually take more out of the pie than they put in, whereas the ‘sponsored’ clubs pour literally Billions into the PL/FA coffers.

    It wouldn’t matter who was at helm, we would still get screwed.

    They don’t like us. It’s as simple as that.

  • Menace

    What a wonderful opportunity to introduce some female officials as VARs. One official from each competing club & the VAR. That gives 3 video checkers. 2 from 3 gets an opinion 3 from 3 gets a decision. Opinions get a max 5 minute sin bin time & the Decision gets a max 10 minute sin bin time. At the end of the match the team video checkers are assessed & any incorrect decisions are fined £20k towards grass roots football.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Not sure Dein is the man at this stage, but we really need that sort of figure at the club….even if it’s a position Wenger might not initially agree with.
    Wenger is a romantic optimist, but he is not stupid, I am sure he knows the game in this country and Europe is rotten to the core, if he doesn’t, he should by now.
    But, firmly believe Wenger thinks he can genuinely triumph against this shite….he did once, but the likes of Riley….and busacca have put an end to that.
    So Wenger cannot take them on. Ivan chooses not to, for whatever reason.
    And the kroenkes…..some would say they are not sufficiently engaged…but who knows.
    But a proper DOF could not only help with the post Wenger transition when it comes, but he may be able to take this on. I hope Wengers opposition to …reported…..structural changes are misreporting, or his own mischief…..because there are areas whereby the club can be improved, and taking on the pgmol…and even media is one of them. If the incumbents won’t do it, bring in someone who will, and do it this summer.

  • timo

    The protest against unfair referees can be done. First the fans need to come together and understand that something is really odd. The players too can do it. why don’t any retired players out of contract ever talk about refereeing? are they under oath not to ?
    It should take a player or two to quit the EPL and say English refereeing is bent.

  • Polo

    England FA approved retrospective punishment for diving, about time. If only it was approved earlier.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Polo….sounds good initially, but let’s wait and see which refs they put in the panel to decide such retrospective panel.
    I am willing to bet the usual suspects ie England players will still get away with it, unless of course they happen to play for Arsenal

  • Leon

    Only one (ex) ref per panel plus ex player & ex manager. Pretty good mix I’d say.

  • Leon

    I think they’re going to be checking all forms of simulation, not just diving. ’bout time too, but hasn’t made much difference in Scotland.

  • ARSENAL 13

    18/05/2017 at 2:26 pm
    I get the impression that you don’t really want this to succeed.
    Give it a chance and you might even be surprised.
    I’m very much looking forward to this, but I can see how the conspirator mob will still be suspicious.”

    Leon, Tony wants it to succeed. Without us having to question it again. Untold ARSENAL was the first (one of the, if not the) blog to advocate video refereeing. I was skeptical of it, regarding time being wasted, which was cleared by the arguments here. We all want video refereeing to succeed and be transparent.

    AND NO ” “Three referees say no, my friend. One here and two in the tent.” ” this will not help generate confidence in the system. This is not transparency.

  • Leon


    I always did think that both Tony & Walter supported the VAR tech, but Tony seems to be trying to discredit it before giving it a chance to prove itself. He’s not the only one here doing that though is he?
    “After you get what you want you don’t want it”.

  • Norman14

    Looks like Nottingham Forest have got themselves a fixer 😉

  • Norman14


    I don’t think Tony is discrediting the technology, just the way in which PGMOL will use it!

  • ARSENAL 13


    No, Tony isnt discrediting anything here.

    The idea of video refereeing was wholeheartedly supported here with idea that it brings transparency to the system. It’ll help referees do better. And in hopes that refereeing errors dont become the game deciders.

    BUT with reports filtering through, this sounds more like a closed system. Unlike the ones cricket uses or that American football uses.

    Its not something revolutionary is it…. to use a two way communication which is heard by the crowd?

  • Norman14

    Where is the advantage, to a team that has lost to a dodgy penalty, if the result stands, even though the “cheat” is banned?

  • Norman14


    sorry, i was quoting the quote that you quoted 🙁

  • Polo

    @ Mandy, it will be better than not having one I guess. It would look silly from an FA point of view if the panel keep ignoring blatant divings from English players. It won’t be perfect but it will cut down the diving. I hope the Club get punish too not just the players. Next I hope PL will have VAR technology to reduce incompetent referee decision making.

  • Norman14


    Interestingly, the A League refs were “trained” by PGMOL officials.
    Perhaps that favour could be reciprocated – but I suspect Riley feels nobody can teach him anything!

  • omgarsenal

    Most of you know I am a retired professional referee so here is my take on VAR and GLT;

    a)It (or them), or something similar ,is/are long overdue.

    b)VAR is complicated, because of the technical requirements for the Referees and analysts doing the reviews….so there WILL be some screw-ups and misunderstandings but ,depending on the goodwill AND enthusiasm of the trainees, it can be applied successfully in Football,worldwide.

    c)Those who resist these vital changes have a hidden agenda that has NOTHING to do with losing control of the game, time-wasting,threatening the officials’ decisions, etc. They are fearful of being judged harshly and of being assessed by people outside the cabal they belong to…meaning that they can’t rely on the old boys network to cover their asses.

    d)Remember, under the Laws, the referee’s decision is always FINAL so, even IF the VAR say that his or her decision was incorrect, the referee is the final arbiter!

    e)This IS the future and the Sweet FA, the PIGMOB and other vested interests can only resist this technical tidal wave for so long…they will all face it in every FIFA/EUFA sponsored event worldwide. English teams and players must adapt or remain mired in their mediocrity, until they do adapt.

    f) Every former or current FIFA referee I spoke to supports these services wholeheartedly and most players I know do so as well, provided as Colina says, it is applied fairly and efficiently.

    I imagine Walter feels the same way as I do.

  • Oldham Gooner

    Oh s*** Tony, your article is a chilling thought. If video refereeing is corrupted by low-life officials in the UK, I suggest we hire hackers and troll them for life! Murder by social network, that’s the only thing that’ll work on the vain a***holes.

  • Goonermikey

    An ex Ref Mike Riley
    An ex manager Harry Redknapp
    An ex player Either Neville brother, Savage, Lawrenson, Jenas, Hansen, Claridge et al

    We’re all doomed…………