Whatever happened to the idea of having a video referee system in the Premier League?

by Tony Attwood

It was about nine months that the headlines rang out with the news “Premier League and PGMO split over referees’ final say in video rulings”

The Telegraph told us

“The Premier League and its referees’ organisation are still undecided over whether the introduction of video assistant referees (VARs) will involve the on-field referee consulting a pitchside replay screen to have the final say in all decisions.

“The Professional Game Match Official (PGMO) are working on the introduction of VARs in time for the start of the 2018-2019 season. One of the major choices on the implementation is whether the VAR or the on-field referee has the final call.

“The PGMO general manager, Mike Riley, wants the convention to remain that the on-field referee has the final say, which would involve him being alerted to an incident by the VAR and then heading to the side of the pitch to watch it being replayed before reaching a final decision. That way Riley believes the referee will retain authority.”

Which raises the problem that IF (and yes it is just an IF) there is something amiss with what the referee is up to, he can still have an undue influence over the match in spite of what the video system says.

Outside the PGMO most people seem to agree that the VAR operators should make the decision and the ref should obey.  That seems logical and reasonable.  So why are the PGMO objecting?  It’s a good question and of course we never know because the PGMO is an ultra-secret organisation that makes the Masons look like a Come-All-Ye in the local folk club.

Anyway, the system was trialled in the England Germany friendly and now… well, nothing as far as I know.  I may have missed it but I somehow can’t find an announcement about when and how VAR will be introduced into the Premier League.  Of course the licensed pundits on the media don’t tell us because, well, they are licensed by the PL and thus restricted in what they might debate, and since it is not yet an issue that has been opened for discussion by the League, we hear nothing.


What I can say is that in France the club presidents have voted the introduction next season of VAR – something that has already been running in Germany.

Actually the formal declaration is that the video refereeing will be used in all Ligue 1 games in the season 2018-2019 “if everything is in focus”, according to the president of the French Football Federation, Noël Le Graët.  The decision was taken at the General Assembly of the Professional Football League. “I think it’s a good initiative, all the presidents want it, the referees and the other observers too,” said Noël Le Graët.

By chance this vote comes the day after the League Cup match between  Rennes and Olympic Marseille which ended 2-2, and was then resolved 4-3 on penalties, during which a valid goal was denied to OM and another, invalid goal, was given and then not given to Rennes.

Which led to the coach of Marseille, Rudi Garcia, to say that “OM was eliminated from a match we won.”  The president of the club, Jacques-Henri Eyraud, added, “Technology will never guarantee no errors, but it will be able to limit mistakes. It’s absolutely necessary, given the stakes. ”

The referees of Ligue 1 will be able to resort to the video help in four situations: after a goal is scored, in relation to the giving or not of a penalty, for a direct red card or to correct an error of identity of a player who has committed a foul or otherwise misbehaved.

The French vote must however be validated in March 2018 by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), but that is pretty much a formality.

IFAB secretary Lukas Brud acknowledged in an interview with Kicker magazine that at the start video support for referees will have its teething troubles and that refinements to the system will be needed.  The main problem, he said, “is that we still do not know very well when the assistant referee must intervene.  We try something totally new, and as no referee wants to make a mistake, and so they prefer to consult the video assistant more than we might anticipate.

“In Germany, video refereeing is widely criticised but general opinion is that it must be preserved, in an improved form yet to be defined.”

It’s an interesting point.  “No referee wants to make a mistake.”  With PGMO it doesn’t always seem like that to me, but maybe that is just my over excited imagination.

But as and when video refereeing is introduced we shall have a benchmark to measure it against: the record of the extraordinary number of mistakes in the first 160 games of last season.

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7 Replies to “Whatever happened to the idea of having a video referee system in the Premier League?”

  1. Back in the days when Arsene was manager of Monaco and making his name as a world class manager Marseille were the ‘cheats of Europe. They are in no position to cry ‘foul’ when a wrong decision goes against them.

    I am not surprised that Riley is seeking to maintain control of referee decisions.

  2. Looking at Rugby Union, Cricket and various other sports (I think American Football as well), the Video Ref/4th official/TV Umpire (call them what you want) making decisions doesn’t stop the on pitch referee/umpire etc retaining authority.
    So why would it do so in Football?
    Well the answer there is that the football refs lost any respect from players/managers years ago when they decided that they’d run games, rather than referee games.
    I think that’s the issue that both the PGMO and the PL have.
    The PL have used the PGMO (together with the easily lead/ gullible media) to generate some interest in the PL by turning the league into a soap opera (good guys, bad guys, mad guys, mad geniuses, demi-gods, johnny foreigner, plucky little team etc etc) which is managed by the PGMO on a week by week basis. Games aren’t ‘fixed’ but they are assisted/massaged towards certain outcomes, which is often achieved but also regularly fails.
    When the refs are told by a Video ref that the goal doesn’t stand or that a penalty should be given because Huth was holding as the corner was taken (every corner that was taken!) then they refs can no longer ‘manage’ a game. They’ll have to go back to refereeing games, which means the outcome is even less controllable…
    Whilst they’ll have PGMO people as the Video refs so they can continue managing games, it won’t be long before questions are asked about how a PGMO video ref can have such a poor game, and then they’ll have to change that somehow…
    So in the long term, VAR will be the catalyst of the PGMO having to be restructured.

  3. If the VARs decisions in games more especially in the Premier League and as it’s affected Arsenal are not adhered to as these decisions can be overruled by the PGMO match referee, then what will be the essence of introducing the VARs into the Premier League in the first place since it’s decisions can be turned down by the match referee on the pretext that he doesn’t agree with the decisions?

    Since the use of the VARs in the major European Leagues will become a trend in use after it has been majorly used in the Fifa’s 2018 World Cup to thus making it’s use official I suppose, and the Premier League has to be part of this usage, but Mr Riley, the PGMO general manager who has been unlawfully deciding which club in the PL wins the Title or not ever since his tenure as the PGMO chieftain through the intentional acts of subversive referring by his appointed match day match officiating referees in the PL and has been getting away with his illegal doings unchecked. I think Arsenal FC who has been the major affected club side in cynical referring in the PL that bothers on conspiracies to block Mr Arsene Wenger’s manage Arsenal FC from winning the PL Title overtime by Mr Riley and his cohorts, should Arsenal FC take Mr Riley and his secretive PGMO to Uefa or Fifa or even the CAS to compell Mr Riley and his PGMO not to be tampering with the VARs decisions in PL games even if the VRAs decisions are later found to be wrong which is unlikely if probably manned and correctly operated, But been a Hi-Tech machine in which rare error can not be ruled out due to malfunctioning, it can be improved on from making wrong decisions.

  4. Tony….I am going to write an article about referee authority and secrecy since I find your article somewhat controversial.

  5. If one listens to what the PGMO has had to say about this, it all about the referee’s authority. It sounds like the referees want to put themselves ahead of the game with all this bleating about authority. If they called a proper match and kept violent and repetitive fouls under check by early and just bookings and booked teams for dissension you wouldn’t have this problem. In my mind, it is a bit like police deciding what laws to follow and then getting upset when citizen-voters ask for civilian oversight of their actions.

  6. Andi Mack
    “The PL have used the PGMO (together with the easily lead/ gullible media) to generate some interest in the PL by turning the league into a soap opera (good guys, bad guys, mad guys, mad geniuses, demi-gods, johnny foreigner, plucky little team etc etc) which is managed by the PGMO on a week by week basis.”

    This is so true.

    I do agree that refs should have authority, we cannot rely solely on machines, but refs should become a part of a referee league, where their mistakes are penalised and their competence is rewarded.

    If VAR is used to monitor the refs and the ref league is implemented to run like the leagues in football, that is, with refs being promoted and demoted like clubs, with all that implies, ref tables, loss/gain of money and status, there will surely be more motivation for refs to perform at their best. This will also weed out the bad refs making the quality of refs much better.

    Of course refs income and bank details will also have to be monitored like clubs economic areas to make sure “sugar daddies” or others cannot influence refs with money.

    This is/will not be perfect, but i do think that without a ref league we will not improve the ref situation that much even with VAR.

    On top of that, football needs to have global rules with every country bound to the same rules, and ref training will need to be also following a global strategy.

    With the increasing nationalism, i just cannot see it happening any time soon.

    (Mind you with the impending false attack by aliens, many will call for globalisation and the world will seek to come closer and unite against the “aliens”) but would it last? Probably not, looking at the current mindset of our societies.

    If we cannot get along and share now without an outside threat, any form of uniting against a simulated threat, will surely be just an uneasy truce.

  7. It would be good if we could believe “no referee wants to make a mistake”. However their continued awards of decisions that do not represent the correct usage of the laws of the game might suggest otherwise. I find that every game has a point where fans of one or both teams are left perplexed by clearly wrong decisions on the pitch. The referee draws the focus away from the football onto his or her self. They now have their studio referee analysis and that offers the taste of celebrity which they seem to crave. When we consider just how bad some of these decisions are, the Laca penalty against Southampton springs to mind, they can only be considered as willful and deliberate until such time when accountability is established. It can not be that any organisation can survive and retain credibilty when they make “mistakes” or clearly wrong decisions in every game they are involved in.

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