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  • Writer's picturePaul Struthers

Moya Musings - PGMOL heeds our advice

Readers will recall my blog on VAR from a few weeks ago, where I suggested some key steps the Premier League / PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Ltd) could take to improve the situation.

In summary those recommendations were:

1. Explain and communicate decisions as/immediately after they are taken.

2. Invest time and effort in proactively explaining the Laws of the Game and contentious decisions after the event.

3. Taking responsibility for when mistakes are made and ensuring accountability.

Since I wrote that blog, IFAB have commenced a trial whereby the referee explains the VAR decision to the crowd in the stadium once it’s been taken.

And in the last two days, after the umpteenth weekend in a row where VAR decisions (or, more accurately, non-decisions) caused further controversy, the PGMOL Premier Game Match Officials Limited issued two statements.

The first accepted mistakes were made and the second confirmed the action taken to try to ensure those mistakes aren’t repeated.

They are both positive steps but there still remains a fair distance to travel before the controversies will end.

The whole point of using instant replay/video assistance for decisions is remove clear and obvious errors that change the course of the game.

The reason it is so successful in cricket is that the technology enables us to tell whether or not the subjective decisions (Leg Before Wicket, whether a batter has edged it or no-balls) were right or wrong.

There is far more subjectivity when interpreting the Laws of the Game, which is why the phrase “in the opinion of the referee” is so important and why it’s impossible to eliminate scrutiny of decisions.

Most people understand this and are willing to accept errors will occur when taking decisions live and at full speed but are far less accepting of errors in a review process that was supposed to ‘solve’ the problem.

I firmly believe VAR is a welcome innovation in football and have no doubt it will keep improving. Taking responsibility for mistakes and increasing transparency will undoubtedly boost confidence in the system but ultimately unless the mistakes are eliminated the controversy will rage.

So, what else could they do in addition to further training for officials?

  1. Show the replays of VAR incidents in the stadiums and provide the feed to broadcasters as decisions are being taken. I would do this alongside the broadcast of the discussions (as they do in rugby union) but a brief explanation after the decision has taken been taken, as they do in the NFL and as per the IFAB trial, but would much better than the status quo.

  2. Take what IFAB are already doing on social media but go a step further by using social media to explain actual decisions after the event, rather than hypothetical ones.

  3. Give the VAR more time to get decisions correct, and at the same time football should follow other sports and stop the game clock when a review (or other stoppage) is underway, consigning the uncertainty of injury time to the scrap heap.

That’s now twice I’ve put forward advice in this blog that has subsequently been heeded. I'm not so naïve to think that the RFU and PGMOL read this blog but at least it shows I might know what I’m doing!

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