February 4, 2023

Premier League referees made six incorrect VAR interventions in the first part of the season ahead of the World Cup break, which ESPN sources say includes Arsenal’s goal at Manchester United.

An independent panel, made up of three former players and a representative from both the Premier League and PGMOL, reviews all major match incidents over a weekend and reports back to the clubs on Thursday to point out where mistakes have been made.

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Howard Webb has now taken over as PGMOL’s Chief Referee, charged with improving the quality of performance both on the field and in the VAR room. A dedicated VAR coach has been appointed to work with the two full-time video referees and those transferring to Stockley Park.

Webb is eager to reduce the number of mistakes made in the VAR room, with the panel reporting that six of the 48 tilts this season have been incorrect. Sources have told ESPN that the list of errors includes the goal Gabriel Martinelli believed to have scored to put Arsenal ahead in the 12th minute at Old Trafford when the game was goalless. The VAR, Lee Mason, advised referee Paul Tierney that the goal should be disallowed due to a foul in Martin Odegaard’s run-up on Christian Eriksen. United went on to win the game 3–1.

Mistakes also include the decision to rule out Maxwel Cornet’s late equalizer for West Ham United at Chelsea due to a foul in Jarrod Bowen’s build-up on Edouard Mendy, and an own goal by Tyrick Mitchell of Crystal Palace at Newcastle United, that was disallowed due to a foul in Joe Willock’s build-up on goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

The penalty awarded to Brentford at Nottingham Forest, when the VAR ruled that goalkeeper Dean Henderson had knocked down Yoane Wissa for a penalty, was also wrong.

There have also been a number of missed interventions, with ESPN sources revealing that two West Ham goals should have been disallowed for handball in a 3-1 win at home to Fulham.

Webb will visit all Premier League clubs in the new year to meet with key personnel and discuss what is expected of referees. This includes an assessment of the implementation of VAR in the Premier League and managing expectations.

No decision has yet been made on whether to introduce semi-automatic VAR next season, as used by FIFA in the World Cup and UEFA in the Champions League.

Meanwhile, the Premier League – in partnership with Major League Soccer and France’s Ligue 1 – has filed an application with football’s legislator, the IFAB, to try temporary concussions from next season.

At this time, a player is assessed on the field before a doctor determines whether he should be removed from the game. This has led to some disturbing scenes with players determined to stay on the pitch, including Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand against England, who was eventually substituted after trying to play on and going down for a second time.

The Premier League wants to remove players from the game and take them to the medical room to be assessed for 10 minutes, after which they will return to the game or the temporary substitute will become permanent.

The IFAB’s annual general meeting will be held in March, when the leagues will be told if they have clearance for the course, but some other European leagues are against deviating from permanent concussion replacements.

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