The VAR referees: who are they, and is there a chance of bias?


by Andrew Crawshaw

In my last article I looked at how some match officials have the opportunity to have an adverse effect on a team’s points score in the season to date.  Some comments quite rightly pointed out that the VAR referees and their assistants have an equal opportunity to affect matters.  I have been noting the basic numbers this year but have only just completed the breakdown by teams both home and away

There have been 22 VAR referees used this season, mostly the same names that we are familiar with from those we see in the middle, supplemented by a few others.

The table showing the busiest referees follows after the advertising




Video Referee

Total Games

Andre Marriner


Michael Oliver


David Coote


Paul Tierney


Chris Kavanagh


Martin Atkinson


No great surprises so far.

However when I look at the appointments by team things become a little stranger though.  Here is a team by team table of repeat appearances.  (in order to keep things relatively simple and avoid too much typing, for some clubs I have just put in the numbers rather than names).

You may recall that our complaint concerning the on-pitch referees is not that there is proof of any corruption, but that if there were a referee on the VAR team, who potentially could be corrupted, the use of the same referee over and over again with the same club, enhances the chances of corruption happening.

Restricting the number of games for each club that each of the VAR referees can oversee would be a very simple way of reducing the chance of corruption and of re-assuring people interested in football that normal, everyday precautions against corruption are being taken.

And even if there is no corruption, such a measure would re-assure fans that every possible precaution is being taken against corruption seeping into the system.


Team Number of appointments
6 5 4 3
Arsenal Paul Tierney Chris Kavanagh
Burnley 6
Bournemouth Lee Mason Jon Moss
Brighton Graham Scott
Burnley 6
Chelsea Andre Marriner David Coote

Paul Tierney

Mike Dean

Crystal Palace Andy Madley 2
Everton Simon Hooper 2
Leicester Michael Oliver

Peter bankes

Mike Dean

Liverpool Paul Tierney Craig Pawson Andre Marriner
Man City David Coote Andy Marriner Graham Scott
Man United Michael Oliver

Mike Dean

Paul Tierney

Graham Scott

Newcastle 5
Norwich Simon Hooper 2
Sheffield United Martin Atkinson
Spurs Michael Oliver

Simon Hooper

Southampton Simon Hooper Michael Oliver
Watford Andre Marriner 4
West Ham Andy Madley Andre Marriner Michael Atkinson
Wolves 3

We can see that even with a greater number of accredited officials, the selection system is still throwing up far too many repeat appearances.  There really is no excuse for officials being appointed to key match roles for a single club four five or six times in two-thirds of the season.

Where the numbers really do start to raise eyebrows are the appointments for the Video Assistant referees – these are the ones that decide if someone’s toenail is ahead of the last defender.

Here are the people who have been used most of the total rota of 28

Video Assistant Referee

Total Games

Andy Halliday


Stephen Child


Scott Ledger


Dan Robathan


Yes both Andy Halliday and Stephen Child have done about four times the number of matches as anyone else and have averaged nearly two games a week – in God’s name why???

  • 13 of the Arsenal matches have been done by the two of them – evenly split 7 and 6.
  • 12 Everton games have been done by the two of them, 4 by Haliday and 8 by Child
  • 12 Man City games have been done by the two of them, 10 by Haliday
  • 13 Man United games have been done by the two of them, Child has done 11
  • Like Arsenal West Ham have had an even split with a total of 13 games
  • Of his 11 games Dan Robathan has done Burnley four times
  • Darren Cann has done Newcastle, Norwich and Sheffield four times (out of 9 appointments)
  • Simon Long has done Spurs in 4 out of his 6 appointments.

These are just some headline figures – as I said they are unbelievable.  It is not a case of saying that these figures show that the VAR refereeing is not being undertaken properly, but it is an allocation of responsibility that allows for corruption to flourish if there were to be a referee whose integrity had been compromised.


13 Replies to “The VAR referees: who are they, and is there a chance of bias?”

  1. The whole thing leads itself to the possibility of corruption.
    As with the match refs, just seems there are not enough to go around, didn’t the PGMOL initially promise there would be 22 match refs available, we have 17, the same faces recycled year on year.
    I would be amazed if the issue of English refereeing isn’t somewhere high priority in Wengers inbox, he is already making noises on VAR
    That is unless people high up in FIFA are somehow doing well out of the little peculiarities of Mike Riley and co.
    Wonder what joys Riley has in place for us this weekend? Can’t be having us unbeaten in 2020 with clean sheets to boot

  2. Well maybe this is not a sign of corruption but a proof of the total and galactical incompetence of PGMOL and the FA in managing such an important aspect of the game. This is the biggest football league in the world, the most watched, the most popular for God’s sake.

    It has the most financial means at its disposal and all we see is a bunch of amateurs incapable of setting up an organisation that works. I mean, they weren’t even able to understand how VAR works in time to have it operational at the same time as the other european championships. And now that they have it set-up, they are incapable of using in in a coherent way – and as you show, because it is always the same clowns officiating VAR, it means they are not competent – any kid would get the knack after a few games.

    Corruption would mean lots of money coming and going and people having lavish lifestyles which would be flagged, known, visible. Nothing of the sorts has emerged.

    I just think these people are in way over their head and in any normal job or industry, they would be looking for work. And in that lot I include many of the referees.

    I believe it is time to move the discussion from any criminal or conspirational mindset for which they visibly lack the intellectual and logitical capability and set it where it belongs : they are a bunch of incompetent fools, incapable of delivering the service they are being paid for and visibly equiped with a shitload of hubris. PGMOL is incompetent, and the lack of stats is there because it would prove the incompetence, so they hide them.

    They don’t make interviews because any watcher would figure out the intervied referee is incapable.

    And, when you see how players are lacking respect on the field – which you don’t see in other leagues by the way – it is clear : the players know they are incompetent. A pro respects a pro, this is something you see across all sports. Players in the PL definitely do not show signs of respect to the referees which is telling.

    Do you think players are not aware of facts ? That they don’t know about Game 49 ? That they don’t notice the same referee is there again ? Sure, some may profit, but all are aware of what is going on and all know that only a few profit.

    Considering this, the fact that so few english referees make it internationally has another reason : not good enough. Nothing to do with different rules. Just no one wants them.

    And the press has been ordered to shut up for the same reason. The FA, the PL, the whole organisation is an incompetent bunch.

  3. Chris

    It’s not just that the operators themselves are incapable of implementing VAR correctly that is a worry, it’s the fact that the commentators and pundits seem to think the PL are actually implementing it correctly, and the ‘foreigners’ are not.

    The correct use of VAR regarding possible offsides is to let the move develop to a conclusion. Usually a tackle, a cross, a shot, or even a goal, then check with VAR if necessary.

    As I pointed out earlier in the week, both the commentator and his side kick McManaman seemed utterly perplexed by the correct use of VAR. They just couldn’t get their tiny little brains around it.

    Regarding last night. I have read the odd grumble about our referee, but I thought he was fine.

    No he wasn’t perfect, and early on Guendouzi did get a few knocks, but I believe a card was issued.

    But honestly, do I want perfection from the referee? Yes. Do I think it is realistic to expect it? No.

    What I do want and EXPECT is balance. Applying the laws of the game evenly across a match and evenly across different matches.

    If he’s letting things go that’s fine as long as it’s for both teams. If he’s being a bit fussy, again fine, as long as it’s for both sides. I felt that’s what we got last night.

    Very rarely do I feel that in the Premier League.

  4. FYI For 32 fouls in three games Atwell has managed to give us 11 yellows and one red. So that’s an average of 10.6 fouls per game (which is virtually the average number committed per team per game this season). That’s a card every 2.5 fouls (with a red counting as two yellows).

    Meanwhile Leicester have been card-less in games where they have committed 14, 12 & 11 fouls. Whilst on one occasion Anthony Taylor still managed to give us three cards in a game for only four fouls. You count on the fingers of one hand the number of times a team has committed four or fewer fouls in a game this season!

    The Video ref this weekend is Pawson who some of you may remember gave us 5 cards for 13 fouls at home to Chelsea a few weeks ago and was also the Video ref who ruled out the winner against Palace two weeks later.

    And btw as Video Assistant Referee we have a chap called Stephen Child this weekend……

  5. @Mikey,

    If I remember correctly the fourth foul in that game was penalised with a penalty!

    I don’t have the statistics to analyse which players have been called for fouls during each game or if they led to cards. If any reader can give a link to freely available data on this I would be grateful. The official PL site only has the data in the minute by minute text commentary for each match and I’m not prepared to invest the time necessary to extract the data into a form that can be interrogated.

  6. Atwell! FFS, again!
    That makes it four refs we have had four times already this year. And, the guy is an atrocious ref for us.
    Why isn’t someone at the club saying something about these repeat refs?

  7. @Nitram,

    well, as far as I’m concerned, the idiots on the ‘media’ don’t bother me that much.
    They are like windmills. Were the wind to change, they’d all be telling how they knew from day one, etc etc.

    But I’m more and more thinking that what we are seing is total incompetence. Nothing more, nothing less. It suits some, notably in the North, so nothing changes.

  8. @Mikey -the Palace goal that Sokratis scored was ruled out by an Aussie appointee not by Pawson. This appointee was a select special accompanied by some Riley bullshit that smelt more rotten than his normal select wind bags.

    There is nothing incompetent in successful corruption.

  9. Var is getting a pasting on the BBC website, and on Twitter tonight. Some of the smarter participants in the “debate” seem to have realised that VAR itself may not be at fault, only its operators (PGMOL)

  10. VAR is fine, its the people who make the decisions that are at fault.

    I keep saying that a foul should be/is a foul regardless how it happened.
    f.i If a player trips and falls into another player, its a foul.
    No need to say, oh it was not intentional. It is a foul that had the same result as if it was intentional so yea, a foul.
    We have no telepaths so no one can know if the “fall” was intentional or not.

  11. “not a clear and obvious error because the VAR didn’t feel there was anywhere else for Lo Celso to put his foot.”

    A ridiculous statement that show how silly the rules and management of VAR are.

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