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Premier League agrees to VAR changes to give fans greater information

Referee’s boss Mike Riley has accepted that improvements are needed.

The VAR screen at Anfield.
The VAR screen at Anfield.
Image: Peter Byrne

THE PREMIER LEAGUE and refereeing body Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) have outlined plans for greater communication with supporters in stadiums regarding VAR decisions.

VAR was introduced at the start of the 2019-20 season but has increasingly been the subject of controversy.

Ahead of the ongoing international break, notable decisions aided by the system saw Sheffield United denied a goal at Tottenham for a marginal offside, while there was an unpunished handball by Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold in his own penalty area immediately before the league leaders opened the scoring in their 3-1 win over Manchester City.

VAR was discussed at a Premier League shareholders’ meeting on Thursday, with the 20 clubs represented to debate the issue.

One of the key matters up for discussion was how decisions are communicated to fans within stadiums, and changes are coming in December 2019. There will be greater written detail to checks on big screens, although it was explained International Football Association Board protocol meant imagery of the incidents could not be shown live and referees could not communicate with supporters via microphones.

The Premier League offered an example of how changes would come into effect next month, with a handball check in the penalty area displayed on the screen as: “Checking Penalty – Possible Handball”.

Prior to December, the screen would simply read: “Checking Penalty”. The Premier League released a statement following Thursday’s meeting which promised improved consistency with the implementation of VAR.

It read: “The implementation of VAR was discussed at length and the Premier League and PGMOL committed to improving the consistency of decisions, speeding up processes and increasing communication to fans.

Mike Riley, managing director of PGMOL, addressed the clubs and accepted improvement is required.”

Riley described VAR as “an ongoing process” and said the system “has corrected a significant number of on-field errors” but added “speed and consistency of decision-making are priority areas of work”.

It was reported decisions were now made with 91% accuracy – up from 82% prior to VAR.

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