Referees’ chief Howard Webb is confident that new protocols will help avoid officiating errors such as Luis Diaz’s goal being disallowed against Tottenham Hotspur last month.
Webb, the chief refereeing officer of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) — the organisation responsible for officiating in England — added that he believes the rule that meant the game could not be pulled back even though the error had been realised will be looked.
Diaz’s goal for Liverpool was initially flagged as offside, a decision that was verified by the VAR, Darren England. But PGMOL later admitted a “significant human error” had been made in Diaz’s goal being disallowed, as replays showed the Colombian was clearly onside.
PGMOL also released the audio from the incident which showed that England had said, “Check complete”, with the official failing to realise the on-field decision had been offside.
Speaking on Match Officials: Mic’d Up — a programme hosted by Michael Owen that dissects refereeing decisions in the Premier League and shows previously unheard audio between officials — Webb confirmed that changes have been made to the processes the VAR and Assistant VAR use to communicate their decisions to the on-field officials.
“One of the things that you know this has brought into sharp focus is the need to reiterate some of those communication protocols that are really valuable in VAR to prevent this type of thing happening,” Webb said.
“Not just saying, ‘Check complete. Check complete’ because what are you ‘check completing’? Say: ‘Check complete. Goal confirmed.’ Or in this case, ‘Check complete. Offside confirmed.’ ”
Liverpool VAR error audio made public – full transcript
Several pundits and many on social media were frustrated that the game was not stopped after the error had been realised by the VAR and AVAR, which would have contravened the Laws of the Game set out by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the global body in charge of the sport’s rules.
“When the penny dropped as to what had happened, I think 20 seconds had passed,” Webb added. “And at that point they considered whether or not they could intervene to stop the game.
“They recognise that the Laws of the Game set by FIFA and the International FA Board don’t allow that. There’s a process in place that sits in the Laws of the Game about how we use VAR to make sure it’s delivered consistently throughout every league in the world.
“It doesn’t allow you to go back in those circumstances and as such they decided not to intervene.
“The International FA Board were in fact going to do a full review of the Laws of the Game relating to the use of VAR and … will look at whether or not there’s a need to tweak some of it, and I’m sure that they’ll be looking at this aspect of how VAR is used as well.”
The Liverpool offside audio was dreadful. But maybe we are the bigger problem
Webb’s remarks – analysed
All of this is designed to increase the accountability and transparency of PGMOL this season. Or an “ongoing commitment to being more open,” as Webb puts it.
Match Officials Mic’d Up began with admitting high-profile VAR errors in the opening month and returned for a second episode to accept more of its mistakes.
And none bigger than the incorrect call to rule out Diaz’s goal during the first half of Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur 10 days ago.
Webb could not defend the indefensible, a hurried mess of a process that lurched to the wrong decision owing to what was politely called “a loss of concentration” from the VAR team led by Darren England.
The Premier League had already released the footage in the days that followed a controversy of the officials’ own making but here was Webb attempting to reassure us that the changes made would not allow the same mistake to be made again. Merely saying “check complete” would no longer suffice.
Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Brentford on Saturday was presented as an example of lessons being learned, with Anthony Martial’s goal ruled out for offside with a liberal use of the word “confirmed” between VAR and on-field officials.
A step in the right direction but the embarrassment — and Liverpool’s frustration — lingers.
(Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)