A Tale of VAR, Poor Referees and the Usual PGMOL Apology
If I recall clearly, there was no English referee in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, and many wondered why that happened, as it was the first time in 80 years such an occurrence surfaced. In the European Championships in 2016 hosted by France, England boasted of six referees in the tournament – Martin Atkinson, Matt Clattenburg, Craig Pawson, Andre Marriner, Anthony Taylor and upcoming hotshot, Michael Oliver.
However, the underlying reason surfaced that the newly acquired Video Assistant Referee system was just introduced in the 2017 Confederations Cup in England, and the Premier League had not approved its use till the start of 2019/20 season, a year after the football mundial in Russia.
Teething issues were expected when VAR was launched in the Premier League, as the level of officiating in the division was very questionable, but it offered some respite, as many teams have been robbed by terrible refereeing decisions in the past. What we didn’t know was that having the VAR system in the Premier League would still leave room for more errors, which is rather shocking if you ask me.
I get it, referees are humans no doubt, and human errors are trying to part and parcel of the game, but with the advent of the Video Assistant Referee system, the errors are expected to be slim to none. In my honest opinion, the ‘drawing of the line’ concept used in England is heavily flawed. The UEFA Champions League and more recently, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar use a semi automated system that gives the best possible results, as they are AI enabled.
When everyone turns their eyes to the big screen and sees the graphics clearly showing that player A is offside, there are little or no arguments, because the graphics are on show and you need to attain a certain level of ignorance to still raise dust on such occasions.
But no, the Premier League referees choose to draw lines that are subjective, leaving the fate of the decision at the mercy of the official, or team of officials that aren’t sure of what they are doing, but do it anyway.
Let’s rewind back to last season, when Arsenal dropped two points against Brentford at the Emirates. Arsenal had opened the scoring with Leandro Trossard scoring his first goal for the club, coming on as a substitute for Gabriel Martinelli, but Brentford got an equalizer from a questionable goal by Ivan Toney, that had an offside in the build up. In a goalmouth scramble that saw the Brentford players win three consecutive headers in the Arsenal box, Christian Norgaard anticipated the ball before an onrushing Ramsdale to cut back the ball for Toney that guided the ball to an unguarded net.
Arteta went bonkers in his post-match press conference, as his club had been robbed. PGMOL officials admitted the ‘human error’ and issued an apology to Arsenal and the Video Assistant Referee on the night, Lee Mason, resigned in the backlash of the heat, ending his association with Premier League football after 15 years.
However, that wasn’t still enough, as PGMOL went on an apologizing spree, following more terrible refereeing decisions in subsequent Premier League games.
When Everton hosted Manchester City, the wannabe Howard Webb, Paul Tierney, and his VAR, Chris Kavanagh, failed to award Everton a stonewall penalty, after failing to miss a clear handball by Rodri in the box. Manchester City got three shady points which helped with their title challenge at Arsenal’s detriment, while Everton was denied a chance to get a draw, as a point would have been vital to their relegation woes. PGMOL issued an apology to Everton.
Fast forward to April 2023 in Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Brighton, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg scythed down the effervescent and lightning-quick Kaoru Mitoma in the box and the look on his face was like someone that had committed a crime. However, Stuart Attwell shockingly disregarded Brighton’s penalty claims. Play stopped with video assistance from Michael Salisbury, he reviewed the evident video of Hojbjerg tackling Mitoma in the box, but in his eyes nothing happened. It was bewildering at best. As expected, PGMOL issued an apology to Brighton.
In the new 2023/24 Premier League season, Andre Onana was making his Manchester United debut following his big-money move from Inter Milan and late on, the Cameroonian goalie recklessly clattered Sasa Kalajdzic in the box, leaving the forward in a pile on the turf, which also made the forward receive lengthy treatment from the physios, but the VAR Jon Moss failed to instruct the on-field referee, Simon Hooper, to check the pitch-side monitor. PGMOL issued the usual apology.
The drama has unleashed a new episode last weekend with Mohamed Salah sending a defense-splitting pass to Luis Diaz that wasted no time in dispatching the ball past Gigi Vicario, but Darren England deemed it fit to rule out the goal as an offside, when it was evident that the Colombian forward was onside. As expected, PGMOL has cited the decision as a ‘significant human error’, and issued an apology to Liverpool,
“PGMOL acknowledge a significant human error occurred during the first half of Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool.
“The goal by Luiz Diaz was disallowed for offside by the on-field team of match officials.
“This was a clear and obvious factual error and should have resulted in the goal being awarded through VAR intervention, however, the VAR failed to intervene.
“PGMOL will conduct a full review into the circumstances which led to the error.”
When you think of the fact that Diaz’s goal would have put Liverpool rightfully ahead, and it was cancelled, only for Simon Hooper to dish out two red cards to Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota, leading to the pressure that saw Tottenham win the game late on from a Joel Matip own goal, you have to feel gutted for them. Yes, I’m an Arsenal fan and I hate everything Tottenham stands for, so to see them win the game under such circumstances was downright annoying.
This trend isn’t stopping anytime, especially after Mike Dean’s scathing comments on how he ignored Anthony Taylor’s VAR call because he’s a ‘mate’. We are stuck with the terrible sets of referees we have in the division and we need to brace ourselves for more PGMOL apologies.
So I apologize in advance on their behalf.
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