Per an exclusive report from The Telegraph, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system in the Premier League will be subject to scrutiny, and “major changes” will be discussed for the first time since its implementation.
Following intense recent criticism of the current system from some of the Premier League’s top managerial voices like Mikel Arteta of Arsenal, Gary O’Neil of Wolverhampton, David Moyes of West Ham, and Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool, some important football lawmaking groups have decided to take action.
According to the Telegraph article, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) has initiated “a series of consultations over what changes should be made” to the current VAR system.
It’s important to note that this decision comes off the back of the League Managers’ Association (LMA) collective call for changes to be made to VAR on Wednesday. IFAB, which is the governing body that sets the rules for how the PGMOL – the Premier League’s refereeing association – operates, confirmed that Premier League representatives will soon be added to their “protocol review group” that already contains representatives from UEFA and other continental football federations.
From there, any proposed changes would likely take at least two seasons to be implemented due to the necessity of testing beforehand, per the article.
Obviously, Premier League managers won’t be impressed with a two-plus season waiting period. So, what changes can be made between now and then?
Well, for one, the article states that thanks to support from Howard Webb, the Premier League’s head of the PGOML, live VAR audio as the decisions are being made could be aired in the stadium in real-time.
As we know, the PGOML has recently started publicly releasing VAR audios to disgruntled managers, particularly in the case of Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool’s phantom “offside,” in order to establish clarity and transparency regarding the process. Airing it live seems like the next natural step.
Furthermore, Premier League managers (via the LMA statement) have expressed their desire to see more consistent pairings between referee crews and VAR in order to build stronger rapport and prevent miscommunication between the two.
The article also mentions that technology used during the World Cup (i.e. goal-line technology that will tell whether or not a ball is completely out of play), which Premier League teams voted against implementing, could make its debut next season thanks to recent events like Newcastle’s controversial goal against Arsenal last week.
Another piece of technology that the Premier League is expected to adopt is the “semi-automatic offsides” ruling. It’s currently being used in the Champions League and was present at the World Cup, and it would undoubtedly go far to cast out the human error aspect of VAR that led to the incorrect call on Luis Diaz of Liverpool.
In the midst of some of the most trying times to be a referee in football history, there will undoubtedly be more mistakes, more suggested changes and more experimentation. The most important next steps will be to learn from them and, especially, to clarify the rules as they are now so that they are implemented to the most effective and ethical extent.
At the very least, things appear to be heading in the right direction.