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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