Premier League release VAR audio from Diaz mistake, promise overhaul of process

Listen to the conversation between the referee, linesman and VAR officials as they wrongly ruled out Liverpool’s opening goal against Tottenham on Saturday.

LAST UPDATE | 3 Oct 2023

THE PREMIER LEAGUE have made the audio underpinning the non-award of Luis Diaz’ goal against Tottenham on Saturday publicly available, having earlier shared it with Liverpool. 

Diaz scored to give Liverpool the lead in Saturday’s Premier League game, only for the goal to be flagged offside. Replays showed that Diaz was in fact onside, but despite the fact the goal was checked by VAR, it was ruled out. A post-game statement from the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) said the made a “significant human error” in not awarding the goal. 

Liverpool subsequently requested the recorded audio of conversation between the team of officials, and were provided with it earlier today. It has also been sent to all other Premier League clubs, and has now been released to the public, and can be heard on the Premier League website. 

In an accompanying statement, the PGMOL say they “recognise standards fell short of expectations” and are going to develop a new “communication protocol” between the referee and the VAR to avoid similar errors being made again. They will also bring another step of confirmation between the VAR and his assistant on all decisions, and reiterate that accuracy of decision-making must not be undermined by speed. The PGMOL also say they have agreed with the FA to review arrangements whereby officials work on matches outside of Uefa-appointed games, as England was part of a team of officials who worked on a game in the UAE on Thursday, from which they returned to the UK on Friday. 

The audio appears to show the VAR Darren England misunderstood the on-field decision. The on-field decision was offside, whereas England appears to believe the on-field decision was a goal. When he tells the referee “check complete”, it becomes apparent the referee and VAR were endorsing different decisions. It appears the assistant VAR Daniel Cook has recognised the on-field decision was offside, but doesn’t communicate this to England until it is too late. England says he cannot do anything to intervene and correct the error, as that would be contrary to protocol. 

After the Diaz goal is scored, the linesman is heard saying in the recorded audio, “Coming back from the offside, mate”, before flagging Diaz has having been offside. The VAR Darren England is then heard saying, “just checking the offside, delay, delay.”

The offside lines are then drawn – they were not broadcast on the Sky Sports coverage of the match – and as soon as it is drawn in line with the last defender, VAR England says, “Check complete, check complete, that’s fine, perfect.” 

The whistle is then blown to restart the game, with the linesman confirming “playing”, and referee Simon Hooper thanking the VAR for their intervention. The referee then adds, “well done boys, good process”, at which point the replay operator – a separate official to either the VAR or his assistant – realises the mistake that has been made. 

“Wait, wait, wait”, he says, “the on-field decision was offside. Are you happy with this?”

The Assistant VAR Daniel Cook replies, “Yeah”, to which the replay operator repeats his question. “Are you happy with this?” 

The Assistant VAR then says, “Offside, goal, yeah.” (The captions accompanying the published audio included a comma between the word ‘offside’ and ‘goal’ here). 

The Assistant then addresses the main VAR official England to tell him he has made a mistake. “That’s wrong that, Daz.” 

England replies, “What?”, to which the replay operator tells him the “on-field decision was offside.” The replay operator is then heard saying the image given to the VAR and his assistant shows Diaz is onside, at which point England realises he has made a mistake, puffing out his cheeks and swearing.

The replay operator then relays a message from the PGMOL’s hub of operations, instructing the officials to delay the game. VAR England says, “can’t do anything”, saying the game has restarted and therefore he cannot intervene to delay the game. 

“I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything”, repeats England, then adding another expletive. 

“PGMOL can confirm that we have carried out a review into the circumstances which led to the Luis Diaz goal being incorrectly disallowed for offside in the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC”, reads the PGMOL statement. 

“We recognise standards fell short of expectations and acknowledged the error to Liverpool immediately after the conclusion of the fixture.

“A detailed report, including the key learnings and immediate actions taken, alongside the audio between the on-field officials and VAR team has been submitted to the Premier League, who have shared it with Liverpool FC and subsequently all other Premier League Clubs.

“The review of the on-field and VAR decision-making processes and application of the decision-making principles has identified the following key learnings to mitigate against the risk of a future error:

- Guidance to Video Match Officials has always emphasised the need for efficiency, but never at the expense of accuracy. This principle will be clearly reiterated
- A new VAR Communication Protocol will be developed to enhance the clarity of communication between the referee and the VAR team in relation to on-field decisions
- As an additional step to the process, the VAR will confirm the outcome of the VAR check process with the AVAR before confirming the final decision to the on-field officials

“PGMOL are committed to enhancing VAR performance through a new training programme which started this season and focuses on process and best practice for all VARs, AVARs and Replay Operators in their specific roles. While we have a number of FIFA-recognised VARs, work is ongoing to create a dedicated pool of VAR specialists.

“The VAR and AVAR in question were removed from their remaining fixtures in Match Round 7 in the Premier League and have not been included in the appointments for Match Round 8 this weekend.

“PGMOL and The FA have also agreed to review the policy to allow match officials to officiate matches outside of Fifa or Uefa appointments.”

With reporting by Gavin Cooney 

Press Association
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