Is VAR Needed in the Premier League?

There’s been plenty of chat surrounding yesterday’s final 15 minutes at Anfield, which featured two contentious penalty decisions from referee Jon Moss.


Both penalties were dubiously awarded  to Tottenham, the first of which was saved by Loris Karius, before Kane slotted the second one in the 95th minute to earn Tottenham a draw. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was left furious after he was certain neither were in fact a penalty.


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“The result was massively influenced by the linesman’s decisions.


“I am not allowed to go in their room until half an hour after the game, do you think the first thing he comes to me and tells me he made a mistake with the first penalty because it was clearly offside? Unbelievable.”


Given the quality of the game it was a shame that much focus was put on the referees decisions, wrongly or rightly, but it once again raised the question, is there a genuine need for VAR in the Premier League?


Evolution of the Decision-Making Process


This transcript between Jon Moss and Eddie Smart has failed to paint the referee in the best of lights. Linesman Smart clearly knew the information he required to make the decision (Whether Lovren touched the ball or not) and demanded Moss to give him an answer… but Moss’s response… ‘I have no idea whether Lovren touched the ball to be honest with you,’ emphasises his decision was made on a whim.


Sky Sports Transcript


It should be pointed out that Eddie Smart in fact had an excellent game at Anfield, and both decisions he made were indeed correct, albeit a suspected dive from Harry Kane alongside the fact he was offside. He was well within his right to overrule Moss’ decision not to give a penalty in the 94th minute too.


Take a look at the below incident between Arsenal and Manchester United from 2003. There’s a similar situation where the match officials have to make a quick decision on an incident, without any real time to think or re-assess. The difference here is that they’re both extremely clear on the decision made from what’s been seen.



The fact that ‘blind’ decisions are still being made in the Premier League suggests referees and linesmen need more assistance – but is it worth getting every decision right, even if it potentially adds to match lengths?


Right Decision > Time Taken?


VAR has been drip-fed into England’s beautiful game in an attempt to reduce ambiguity, increase the accuracy of decision making and, all in all, allow the fans and players to travel home without feeling a sense of injustice. It removes doubt and human error, and all in all, through some teething issues, it works well in terms of getting the correct decision.


The negative to this highly accurate approach is the delay in crowd and player celebration, due to them having to await confirmation from the VAR – could this somewhat kill stadium atmospheres? Especially as not all stadiums are fitted with replay screens.


After Leicester City’s Iheanacho scored the first ever VAR assisted goal, Claude Puel said, “The time was not so long to watch the video and take the decision. This evening I like the technology.”


Antonio Conte also supported the system, even after his own player (Willian) was denied a penalty, and instead booked for diving after a VAR review but he believed more time had to be taken; “When you start to use VAR, you then need to add more extra time. When there are doubts about two situations in the game, then the extra time is seven, eight or nine minutes.”


Although it only took 40 minutes for VAR to first be used in Serie A this season, since then it has settled down and is only being used once every three or four matches, according to David Elleray, head of refereeing for International Football Association Board. So perhaps it’s worth the odd match being extended in time, if both teams leave satisfied in terms of the outcome?


Being a Match Official Is Extremely Difficult


The video below gives you an opportunity to test your skills as a ref / linesman and make on the spot decisions…



A VAR option may be needed to help officials do their job more seamlessly and ensure that fantastic games of football like yesterday’s, aren’t overshadowed by speculation surrounding decisions.


It’s used in Rugby, Cricket and Tennis to name but a few other sports.


The TMO (Test Match Official) plays a vital role within Rugby in order to ensure referees are given the utmost support in making decisions surrounding extremely fine margins. Although this can sometimes take a few minutes, the TMO ensures every angle of an incident is analysed to provide the man in the middle with conclusive evidence why something should or shouldn’t be awarded. Most of the time the referees rely on their own judgement and allow the game to flow but there are instances where a second look is required and it has proved pivotal in many situations.


Whether it interrupts the game’s flow or not, the large amount of dubious and uncertain refereeing decisions has caused concern – VAR may well be necessary in order to assist match officials and ensure fixtures are won fairly – even if the odd match is increased by ten minutes or so.