How VAR is used will be the most important matter for the future of VAR

By Walter Broeckx

It has been some 11 years ago I started the referee reviews. And in those days I was a lone voice in saying that football needed some system to help the referees in their difficult job. From what I found in my reviews and in the reviews we did with non-Arsenal supporting referees and in our half of the season reviews with video evidence it was clear: referees needed help as they make too much errors.

In the first years of my campaigning for VAR I was alone apart from some Untolders. I even once asked the question directly to one of the top and Fifa referees in Belgium asking if he thought that referees could use something like VAR. I’ll never forget his arrogant answer: He didn’t need VAR. I must add that just before he stopped he sent off the wrong player in a match in Belgium. I couldn’t help but feeling a bit of schadenfreude with his error that could have been prevented if only there would have been VAR. One season later VAR started in Belgium.

In Holland we saw a completely different reaction. Referees in Holland are open and come out to talk with the press if they want to. It is almost a normal sight that not only you get a post-match short interview with players and managers but also with the ref if something special has happened. Refs in Holland didn’t shy away from coming on TV and apologising for an error.

And what was always coming back when they came on TV and admitted an error they mostly had two things to say:

1. The reason why they made the error: eg. They couldn’t see the incident properly, their vision was blocked….

2. Please help us.

And this “please help us” plea was a plea for a VAR system.

Now Holland is a top country in the world of hockey and hockey is a sport very similar to football in some ways. And in hockey they have been using VAR for a long time, and with great success. So referees in Holland knew they made mistakes and wanted help to avoid such mistakes. As one ref said after a terrible mistake after a match: “The only thing that is important is that we are able to make the correct decisions on the field so that the supporters know that the outcome of the match has been fair”.

Thus it is this open minded talking with the press and open minded admitting that too many mistakes were made by referees in Holland that has made sure that all the refs in Holland were very much in favour of the VAR.

And if we now look at the PGMO, we can see that they are the complete opposite of the referees in Holland. Here in England referees don’t talk about their work during their career and even after their career they are paid to shut up most of the time.

In England we have the PGMO who claims that almost all decisions of the ref are correct. The famous 98% figure. Which is laughable of course but nobody in the media is ready or dares to challenge them. We at Untold did this and showed that at best they get around 70% to 80% of decisions correct and when one considers the important decisions only (red cards, penalties and goals) the numbers are lower than that. You can find the numbers in various articles on this site; I’ve added some links at the foot of this article.

So you see a complete opposite in the approach. In Holland referees and KNVB came together with one goal in mind: with VAR we should get as many correct decisions as possibly can.

In England, the PL, the richest league in the world they still don’t have a VAR operational. That alone is disgraceful. Poorer leagues can manage to work with VAR. The PL can’t.

But when you look at the mind-set of the PL and the PGMO and the referees they think they don’t need the support. Why improve a system that is correct for 98%, is their thinking.

Of course if you think you don’t make mistakes you don’t need VAR. But it is clear to see for everyone who even only watches one match day in the PL that each match day important decisions are wrong.

I fear that this arrogant min-set of : “we don’t make mistakes so we don’t need VAR” could make sure that the VAR might not work in the PL. We can imagine that the older refs like Moss, Dean, Atkinson and others will be in the seat of the VAR system. And from their arrogant behaviour of we don’t make mistakes they will not so easily overrule the referees on the field.

And that is a big difference in Holland. If the VAR ref hasn’t helped the ref on the field the ref on the field is angry with the VAR ref and the Dutch football authorities will rap the VAR ref on the knuckles for not having done his job.

In Holland they now even have a VAR moment of the week. On Facebook they have a community called the ARAG KNVB VAR Moment of the week. In this group they show how the VAR works and they even give the audio and video images and exchanges between the referee on the field and the VAR ref who sits in the headquarters of the Dutch KNVB. You can find this on Facebook by following this link.

There you can see in all openness all what has been happening on the field and the exchanges between the referees. This is helping and educating the supporters in how the referees and the VAR work. I find this really amazing.

Each week you can find such a clip. I must warn you if you want to visit it. The referees speak Dutch so you probably cannot understand them. The audio is also subtitled (in Dutch of course) but can you imagine the PGMO doing this? Can you imagine the PGMO letting you hear the conversation between Dean ref on the field with Moss VAR ref hidden somewhere?

But that will be the only way forward for me. Open up the referees and in that way the only pressure you put upon referees is to make the correct decisions.

Thank heavens that there are people who take the interest of football above their own interest like the referees in Holland, the Dutch KNVB.

Hello Mike, what are you waiting for?



25 Replies to “How VAR is used will be the most important matter for the future of VAR”

  1. Walter

    I agree that VAR should help referees to make fewer mistakes, or at least correct mistakes that have been made, but as we saw the weekend with the Linderlof incident, this will not be the case.

    If you put power in the hands of good men they will do good with it.

    If you put power in the hands of bad men they will do bad with it.

  2. If one assumes that type 3 matchfixing occurs then VAR will make it far easier for that to be implemented.

    Team A wishes to finish above teams X, Y and Z and ask the referees to do whatever they can do to assist this without it becoming too obvious.

    Team Z are playing team X and are leading by one goal with a few minutes to go and team X are attacking. There is a minute contact in the penalty area which is unseen by the referee but is eagerly spotted by the VAR official who informs the Referee that a penalty should be awarded. Team X get the penalty and score. Both teams X and Z get one point from the match whilst team A win in an honestly refereed match. Team A win the PL by one point with team Z second by a single point.

    Am I being too pessimistic about VAR? As Nitram says power in the hands of dishonest men is unlikely to give a good outcome.

    The only way that VAR can be seen to work is for the process to be transparent. All of the footage needs to be shown on the stadium screens whilst the play is delayed for a decision to be given and referees and VAR officials need to explain their decisions on an open forum.

    Lastly officials who consistently make errors need to be retrained or if that fails retired. Where do we get enough competent referees? We have players from all over the world, there is absolutely no reason why all of our referees need to be English. Let’s have some Dutch ones for a start!

  3. Andrew

    “The only way that VAR can be seen to work is for the process to be transparent.”

    The problem is though Andrew do they actually want it to work?

    Do they (the media? PGMOL?) actually want a totally fair and level playing field?

    My argument has always been, no they do not.

    And if as I suspect, that is the case, for the bias and cheating to continue, ambiguity, and most importantly secrecy, is essential.

    An interview?

    How could anyone sit in front of a camera and with any credibility say Linderlof wasn’t ‘out of control’ of that challenge? I defy anyone to justify how a player sliding can be deemed to be ‘in control’ of his actions.

    It’s impossible.

    And as for the media, the fact they not only fail to critisise a VAR call as bad as that but actively endorse it, suggests to me we are in deep shit with VAR already.

  4. it is not “their arrogant behaviour”…when most of the teams are sponsored by betting companies and when their worldwide transaction values is a few trillions $’s. putting a decent size countries budget to shame…do you think that they will let go off their control so easily? don’t think so. even if the VAR is brought in, it will be regulated heavily.

  5. Sadly these posts do not fill me with confidence regarding VAR in EPL.

    After this weekend I am even more sure that VAR will be either 1 – scrapped after a year because “it doesn’t work” or 2 – PIGMOB will use it to confirm the corruption of their referees. I use the word corruption because I cannot for the life of me explain what is happening in any other way

    @Nitram Like you I find it hard to beleive anybody could say Lindelof was “in control” and “got the ball first” – when will “experts” engage their brains before uttering anything!. Yes you are right we are aleady in deep shit with VAR already

  6. I actually think we might get more dodgy decisions as they can penalise us for the tiny fraction of things that they don’t already. Penalties at corner kicks anyone?

  7. Les Williams

    I know, the defence of “got the ball first” is completely and utterly ridiculous.

    Are the people that say this suggesting that a head high boot that gets the ball first before taking a players eye out is ok?

    Are the people that say this suggesting that a knee high challenge that gets the ball before breaking the leg is ok?

    WTF are these people on?

    These ‘high’, ‘late’, ‘studs showing’, ‘out of control’ and ‘reckless’ challenges are illegal for a reason, and that reason is they can, and often do, cause serious injury.

    Not one of these rules carries the caveat ‘unless they get the ball first’.

    And if anyone wants to defend Linderlof, or these types of tackles bring the evidence to support your argument.

    Show me where it says it’s ok as long as they get the ball.

    How can these people just sit there and spout this shite?

    This is what is so worrying.

    Just how far people, the media in fact, will go to justify a decision that is so clearly wrong but they want to be right, to the point of making up their own rules.

    I remember an incident in an Arsenal game many years ago when Andy Grey was commentating, that’s how long ago. It annoyed me so much I have never forgot it and I have mentioned it on here a few times, but I believe it bears mentioning again because it highlights the point I just made.

    It was a penalty awarded against Arsenal. It was spectacularly soft.

    In slow motion and under the microscope they get out when they are desperate to prove something, it was evident there was the merest contact. It was not a foul under any circumstances, but there was contact.

    Okay, a soft penalty. They happen, even for us as we’ve seen recently, but that’s not the point, it’s what he said to justify the award of the penalty that’s the interesting part.

    Grey said, and I quote:

    “The rules don’t say there has to be a lot of contact, they just say there has to be contact”

    WTF !

    Where in the rules does it say ‘there just has to be contact’ for there to be a foul?

    It’s a contact sport for pity’s sake.

    But my point is, that’s how far these people will go to justify a crap decision they want to correct. They just make up their own rules, and not a soul says a word.

    I remember at the time being annoyed about the decision, but what made me really pissed off was the way Grey tried to justify it.

  8. Sorry, typo in second last paragraph. Should read:

    But my point is, that’s how far these people will go to justify a crap decision they want to BE correct.

  9. Hmmm. I think when VAR is introduced in the PL next season, it will stay for goods in it helping the referees by correcting any wrong calls they’ve made in matches. But let not one isolated Lindelof case be taken as the general order of what will come into play in the PL when VAR is introduced in it.

    Next season’s campaign in the PL could initially be characterised in referees decision errors making as the system is just newly been applied to instantly review referee mistakes and correct them appropriately. But despite the VAR will be manned by IT personnel and PGMO referees to call the match referee’s attention tp take a 2nd look electronically on his earlier decision that he has made or have not made when he should have made it which the VAR has adjudged wrong decision call or missed decision call. I think the final decision still rest with the match referee to make after he has reviewed the incident he was called to review on the screen monitor. I don’t think the VAR personnel can impose any decision on the match referee to make. But they could indulge or influence him to arrive in making a decision, but I can not say. So, let’s wait to see how the VAR will function when it’s introduced in the PL next season but we should not start to condemn the application before it has come on board. For, the officials and fans of the PL clubs will not keep quiet if the VAR personnel deliberately operate the electronic machine cynically. They will shout and cry out foul loudly to force the VAR personnel to adhere to the standard VAR call reviewing.

    And let it not be forgotten that is not the PGMO that said NO to introducing the VAR in the PL or delayed it’s introduction for use in PL matches until next season next season when it’ll now be introduced . But the PL club sides excluding Arsenal of course and I think Manchester United are the ones who all said NO to introduction of VAR in the PL but only to later reversed their NO to YES on knowing that Arsene Wenger will be leaving Arsenal last season. This is because the PL clubs spearheaded by Tottenham Hot Spurs and Chelsea were of thinking Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal might win the Premier League title again if the VAR is introduced in it which will halt the nefarious activities such as anti-Arsenal match refereeing in the PL been perpetrated against Arsenal by the PGMO denying Wenger’s Arsenal from winning the PL title in his last 13 years at the club. Which if not for the concerted efforts made in stopping his Arsenal teams from winning the PL title again, his Arsenal teams would have won the title at least 3 more times in his last 13 years at the club.

  10. There are times I think that the PL has all of the integrity of professional wrestling. It makes a good spectacle and provides an adrenaline rush for the spectators but never (or very rarely) is it an honest contest decided by the skills of the contestants.

    Wrestling is at least ‘honest’ in its deception as everyone knows that the bouts are choreographed and that the person being thrown is actually controlling many of those throws.

    Football is too often decided by decisions out of the player’s control and for reasons that the players are completely unaware of.

    We know better than most the damage that bad, reckless, late or malicious tackles cause to players in terms of long term injuries, often uncalled or undercalled by the officials. I wonder if formally giving the match officials a Duty of Care requirement in their contract enforceable in a court of law would require them to change the way they regard challenges.

    The main trouble is that the PL and FA seem entirely happy with the crock of poo that is the PGMO. Until that situation changes there is no hope for anything else.

    As I’ve said here before I get far more pleasure from watching Women’s matches which are generally played and often refereed in a far more honest way. It also helps that we are quite good at it!


    The lack of ytransparancy in the PGMO “has always been a concern” for the fomer england manager, but not for failed novelists writing for the Manchester Grunt or for the trolls who try to smear Untold’s collection of objective data with their subjective gibberish.

    If the former England manager can express these simple logical and rational concerns on a non UK based broadcaster, then do not football fans inside the UK deserve better?

    The PGMO is harming English Football. I recommend that the trolls who have faied to discredit the work of Untold over the years (as no other UK based broadcasters are contractually allowed to critique the PGMO) take their amazing skills to go and have an argument with Big Sam. Good Luck!

  12. I guess from a couple of days ago, our U16 didn’t do so well against Chel$ea (lost 2-5). Today I see our U18 beat StateAid, 5-2.

    Congratulations to the U18, and better luck next time to the U16.

  13. Final finishing.

    We’ve had 5 games of GD 31 played, one more on March 24, and 4 games still listed as to be rescheduled (at WorldFootball).

    Wolves 0.4551 0.3767 0.1682 4.9677
    Newcastle 0.7233 0.1384 0.1384 4.8168
    Everton 0.4940 0.3536 0.1523 4.4484
    Watford 0.4894 0.3529 0.1576 4.2763
    CPalace 0.7137 0.1440 0.1423 4.4579
    Leicester 0.5221 0.3260 0.1520 4.4149
    Brighton 0.7430 0.1285 0.1285 4.8176
    Burnley 0.7385 0.1743 0.0872 4.8748
    Arsenal 16.6318783932284 60+17=77

    Cardiff 0.7661 0.1560 0.0780 4.9210
    StateAid 0.5915 0.2056 0.2030 2.7983
    Liverpool 0.0610 0.6260 0.3130 8.7857
    Burnley 0.7815 0.1093 0.1093 3.4734
    ManU 0.2517 0.4989 0.2494 3.3664
    Watford 0.5528 0.2363 0.2109 2.8546
    Leicester 0.4801 0.3544 0.1655 3.6197
    Brighton 0.7094 0.1453 0.1453 3.8047
    Chel$ea 14.9133100396591 57+15=72

    Watford 0.5507 0.2373 0.2120 3.3826
    Wolves 0.4113 0.4070 0.1817 4.8918
    StateAid 0.5892 0.2069 0.2040 3.3157
    Everton 0.4494 0.3851 0.1656 4.3525
    Man$ity 0.0974 0.4513 0.4513 5.9088
    Chel$ea 0.3314 0.3343 0.3343 3.5621
    Huddersfield 0.9189 0.0541 0.0270 14.5282
    Cardiff 0.8296 0.0852 0.0852 5.3636
    ManU 14.6943062528746 58+15=73

    CPalace 0.7402 0.1307 0.1292 3.9541
    Liverpool 0.0779 0.6148 0.3074 8.2847
    Brighton 0.7676 0.1162 0.1162 4.2897
    Hudder 0.9587 0.0207 0.0207 14.3927
    Man$ity 0.0894 0.6071 0.3035 6.6519
    StateAid 0.6619 0.1703 0.1679 3.0507
    Bournemouth 0.6403 0.2398 0.1199 3.3234
    Everton 0.6315 0.1981 0.1705 3.2014
    Spuds 15.7994033018798 61+16=77

    So, we might be fractionally better after this half of GD31 has played, but our standing vis a vis the spuds, seems to have gotten slightly worse. I think this is mostly the affect of the wins by Everton and Leicester changing some of our coefficients slightly more than the spuds.

  14. @Nitram I agree totally with you.

    I remember many games in the past I have watched and I have been baffled as to how the officiating is happening there seem to be decisions based on things that have no direct rules I can think of.

    Like you I despise the dishonesty of the trying to justify a decision the pundit agrees with where he/she will fabricate and interpret something that bears no relation to what they are condoning. Your point about Andy Grey is a perfect example.

    One of the other thing that gets me angry is watching referees who have, and it is blatantly obvious, an agenda in their officiating. To then be told by a pundit that the Ref had a “good game” is incredibly insulting.

    The so called “sports journalists” are even worse they just tell lies.

    I hope that things will change but I am losing faith in that quickly.

    The sad thing is all we want is fairness – is that too much too ask?

  15. Finsbury i couldn’t even finish up the video total gibberish, those trols Are unbelievable talkung nothing Why don’t they Look at manures penalies this season and start to compare .

  16. Les Williams/goonersince72

    “The sad thing is all we want is fairness – is that too much too ask?”

    The problem is before we even begin to address the issue of ‘fairness’ we need to establish exactly what isn’t ‘fair’ at the moment.

    We know what we think is unfair, but does that align with the majority of the footballing World? Personally I doubt it very much.

    When I listen to guys at work the same old cliches are rolled out day after day:

    The big teams (including Arsenal) get all the decisions.

    IE, it’s unfair in the favour of the likes of Arsenal.


    It all evens out in the end.

    IE: In a preverse way it is already ‘fair’.

    Here on untold there has been in depth analisis of Refereeing performances and the publication and analasis of Red/Yellow card and penalty award statistics, all of which suggest things are anything but fair, and in no way do things ‘even out in the end’ as so many suggest.

    The problem is as popular as Untold is, in the great scheme of things it is read by a minute percentage of the footballing public, and subsequently all it’s analasis and data goes largely unnoticed.

    Saddly it is the garbage spouted on a daily basis by the likes of Talksport, the Sun and SKY Sports/BTS etc. that is heard and ultimately absorbed into the psychi of a majority of the football public.

    Basicly, if you asked fans of every club they would think it is ‘their’ team that was being treated ‘unfairly’. This is just the way football fans think.

    They wont have a shread of ‘evidence’ though. They wont have years of data that is researched, analised and critqued, no they will just know because they know ‘what they see with their own eyes’.

    Ask the next football fan you see 2 questions.

    a) Which teams get favoured by refs:

    They will say United, Arsenal, City.

    b) Which teams get a bad deal from refs.

    Their team will be top, or near top of their list.

    If I’m wrong let me know, but I wont be.

  17. I think that the 49th game should be compulsory viewing for all referees and then they should be asked one question, Who is now the person in charge of the refereeing system in the UK?

    When they appreciate the answer to that question, they will then understand the problems we have here.

    Maybe the answer is exclusively foreign referees.

    AS it is at present the whole thing stinks.

  18. jjgsol

    I’ve touted the exclusive use of foreign referees in PL on here many times.

    They are flown in, ref the match. Go home.

    They are not subject to the media ridicule that goes with every decision they don’t like.

    They are run by an independent body.

    In theory it sounds great but it aint never going to happen.

    Can you imagine the first time a big call goes against one of their pets!

    It will be foreign refs this, foreign refs that.

    Let’s not forget our media have somehow managed to convince themselves we have the best refs in the World and as such have allowed them to claim 95% accuracy without so much as a whimper, and all this despite the masses of crap decisions we witness week after week.

    The sad truth is the PL thrives on the fact the referees are shite, untouchable and secretive and answer to nobody except their puppet masters in the media.

    An efficient, well run, accountable group of officials is the last thing they want.

  19. @walter
    I think before we come to the conclusion that the 98% ref accuracy talk is wrong and that var should correct that, we have to see how many cases where var has overturned the ref’s decision. In my opinion, more often than none, var has tended to corroborate the ref’s decision. Thus the 98% accuracy may not eventually be significantly changed by var.
    I also think you didn’t believe var would eventually come to be in the EPL when you started advocating for it as a cure to what you perceived to be arsenal’s ill treatment by the refs. Now seeing that var is coming to be in the EPL, removing a readymade excuse for arsenal’s failures, it looks like it has become necessary to start bashing it(the thing you were calling for all along), so that u can still use the excuse of ref bias to excuse further bad performances.
    If we have learnt anything, its the fact that whether or not, an event is reviewed with benefit of video analysis, people will still have different interpretations most of the time. A case in point being the match between arsenal and Tottenham, for some(eg Dermot Gallagher) the penalty against arsenal was not justified, for some eg Mark clattenvurg, it was. On the other hand for some the penalty against Tottenham was not justified (Gallagher, Clattenburg), for others (Walter, menace) it was. Now assuming Walter and menace are unbiased (a very big IF), and we had these 4 persons on var duty, Walter, menace, Gallagher, Clattenburg… Nothing would have changed on the pitch. Except the PEA penalty would have been retaken(as that’s the only point they all agree on which the ref missed. But if only Gallagher and Clattenburg were on duty, the penalty would not have been given in the first place.

  20. TomP,
    I wanted to show how open referees can be in other countries and that this is the way to follow and the way to go forward.
    I am not bashing the system as the VAR in other countries seem to work just fine (you do need to allow some time to get it completely rolling).

    But when I see VAR used in the Fa cup I miss a lot compared to other leagues.
    I haven’t see a PGMO ref go and consult the decision with his own eyes on a TV screen for example. And that is how it is being done in other countries.

    And yes there still will be decisions that I don’t like at the end of the day. But by using a VAR system in the open like in Holland, you will force the refs on duty to do their damn best to get the right decisions. Othwerise if we use the PGMO version it will be more brushing the same thing under the same carpet.

  21. TomP,
    by showing how it is done in Holland I hope to force the PGMO in to doing the same thing in the PL in the future.

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