The 2019/20 Premier League season is the first to football league that feature the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) after the clubs voted unanimously in November 2018 to introduce the system.

All 380 Premier League fixtures will have a VAR, who is constantly monitoring the match but will be used only for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents” in four match-changing situations:

Penalty decisions
Direct red card incidents
Mistaken identity

The final decision will always be taken by the on-field referee. 

VAR will not achieve 100 per cent accuracy, but will positively influence decision-making and lead to more correct, and fairer, judgments.

In the Premier League, there will be a high bar for VAR intervention on subjective decisions to maintain the pace and intensity of the matches.

Factual decisions, such as offside or if a foul was committed inside or outside the penalty area, will not be subject to the “clear and obvious error” test.  

The English topflight introduced VAR for the first time at the start of the season, where they spent years monitoring its implementation in other competitions to achieve best practice.

However, with VAR rearing its head for mostly all the wrong reasons seemingly every week on numerous occasions, fans and all those associated with the game find themselves analysing the use of the technology, or lack thereof, more than the game itself.

Its use worldwide has garnered criticism and calls for improvement, where decisions like Roberto Firmino‘s ‘offside’ call against Aston Villa and Heung-min Son’s red card against Everton are just two of a myriad of examples across the league which have caused somewhat of a disillusionment.

Here we give you an interview from anfield reporter with one of the fans of Liverpool FC

JAMES: VAR is definitely not working in the Premier League. There is too much confusion around its application, which seems to change from week to week and in some cases from game to game. Certain laws appear to be prioritised one week, then others the next. Rather than bring more consistency it has done the opposite.

I was tentatively in favour before it was introduced in football generally, but probably less so by the time it was about to be introduced to the Premier League.

As a follower of rugby league, I had seen its introduction in another sport and the problems it brings even in a game where there are more natural breaks in the play. It seems the Premier League and some of football’s other governing bodies didn’t learn lessons from other sports’ uses of technology.

Having witnessed it first hand at the 2018 World Cup, you could see the potential problems it could create, even though it was put forward as a success after the tournament.

In an article for This is Anfield in January 2017, I mentioned that “decisions will still be disputed… and with things like handball the laws can be interpreted differently by different people so the arguments around decisions will remain.”

It feels like the Premier League have overseen the most unsuccessful implementation of the technology so far, although fans in some other leagues around the world probably argue the case for their own league!

CHRIS: Verdict is still out, there’s been a number of teething issues, which have absolutely nothing to do with the technology but more the officials using it.

This weird high bar the PGMO have set is at odds with the IFAB protocol.

I agree it can’t be used for everything but it’s never been designed for that, it’s not a 100 percent solution but it seems to be viewed that way in the Premier League.

It has brought up more questions of poor officiating than I’ve seen in most other leagues.

JONATHAN: Prior to its introduction, I was extremely vocal in my belief that it was vital for the improvement of the game.

We were facing a situation where the game was littered by a number of errors from incompetent match officials.

But it’s fair to say since its introduction VAR has been an utter horror show in the PL. This may sound harsh, but in my opinion, all it has succeeded in doing is highlight just how incompetent some of the match officials are.

What we have at the moment is this weird vicious circle, there is this strange taboo about match officials using pitch-side monitors but at the same time, there seems to be a huge reluctance for the VAR officials to overrule the match official.

And don’t ask me what clear and obvious means anymore!!

What’s your most pressing concern with VAR in its current form?

JAMES: I’ve always thought the handball law has been poorly implemented, and since the introduction of VAR the interpretation of the law seems to be getting further away from what it is meant to punish – i.e. deliberate handball.

But I think the biggest problems can arise with offside. Even though in theory it’s a yes or no call, it’s one which has to be made almost instantly (i.e. the raising of a flag or not) to be fair for both sides, which appears impossible for the current version of VAR.

Even if the defence plays a perfect offside line, the flag might not go up for an obvious offside ‘just in case’, with a view to checking the replay if a goal is scored. But what happens if no goal is scored, the ball goes out for a corner, and a goal is scored from that corner? The goal will be given despite an obvious offside in the previous move.

Attackers can lose out because marginal decisions are so difficult to call. When exactly was the ball played? Is the frame rate enough to decide this with 100% certainty? Is a toe or an arm-pit being 1mm offside really what the law was originally introduced for? Probably not.

CHRIS: As Jonathan noted, the lack of pitchside monitor use, or on-field review (OFR) as it’s called.

Once again the use isn’t for everything, certainly not absolute decisions – offside, ball in/out of play and position on the pitch, that is for the VAR to call.

But, for highly contentious decisions the referee should be using them. I’m not sure what the communication is but “there’s an incident here that might warrant a second look” doesn’t seem to be used.

It won’t be needed for most and may only be needed once a game, but look at what we’ve seen in the last few weeks. Handball or not at Villa? Does the referee see something he didn’t originally? We’ll never know as the monitor wasn’t used.

Similar for the Trent call at Anfield. If Michael Oliver goes and looks at that and decides his original decision is fine it helps sell the decisions to the players, this isn’t opinion it is fact, many Bundesliga players have expressed this position after three seasons.


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