The new chief executive of the Premier League admits the competition is keen to improve VAR following the controversy surrounding the technology this season.
Video assistant referees were introduced to English football’s top flight this season in a bid to improve the standard officiating, though there has so far been a largely negative response to its usage, with a recent poll by YouGov finding that more than two-thirds of all Premier League fans believing that VAR is making the game less enjoyable.
Speaking at a press conference to announce his appointment as chief executive, new Premier League boss Richard Masters has opened up on the topic, and says changes may be made as the governing body look to remove further controversies next season.
“I think it’s here to stay and certainly it’s going to be with us next season,” Masters insisted, before admitting there may be changes to how it handles offsides, within Ifab protocols. “I think offsides is one and whether you want offsides that are precise to the armpit or the heel, or whether you want to build in a bit of tolerance. That is sort of a technical challenge.
“We are in constant dialogue with Ifab about it – and about the way the Premier League does it versus everyone else and what we can learn from other leagues.”
Many fans have criticised the delays involved in coming to VAR decisions, with Manchester City awarded a penalty at Tottenham last weekend more than two minutes after Serge Aurier had felled Sergio Aguero inside the area.
Masters insists the idea is for VAR to come to correct decisions whilst causing minimum disruption to the spectacle, and insists talks are ongoing over the development of the technology which is intended to be used ‘sparingly’ throughout Premier League fixtures.
“We wanted to make sure it came in and delivered the benefits but to minimum disruption. You have got fans in the stadium watching something, the use of the review area is another debate. We have recently expanded the remit on that to cover red cards and downgrades from red card situations. I think if fans can see the referee using the referee review area then psychologically they are seeing something happening rather than waiting for Stockley Park to make a decision. That will be a discussion point. We always intended to use it – sparingly.”
“We will look at the development next season to iron out some of the issues we have had. We are doing that. We have improved the in-stadium communication with the slightly different replay screen experience we now have and I think the decision making is now better. If we can get that speed up as well, and it will happen in time… everybody is on a learning curve.”
Whilst admitting that more must be done to improve VAR and its usage, Masters says some desired changes are ‘outside of the extremities of IFAB protocol’, but says the technology’s influence has led to an increase in correct decisions so far this season.
“Some of the things we want to do are outside of the extremities of the IFAB protocol. We would probably want to show a bit more of the action live on screen, but we are not allowed to do that.
“I think we are the only European league that shows clips in an overturn situation. We are also the only league that shows the cross-hairs, the measurement of offside. Despite Uefa using exactly the same system, they just show the line once the cross-hairs have been delivered. Again, we will look at whether that is a net positive or has an impact on the watching viewer at home.
“We have done our own poll. I think it broadly says what you’d expect it to say – the bit about improving decision-making people like, the majority of football fans actually want VAR to be a success and wanted it to come in. There is obviously the other part of VAR which is consistent decision-making, the time to take decision-making, frustration perhaps with the precision offsides and whether you like that or don’t, the jury is out on that.
“By the way, the decision-making part has improved I think we are at 94 percent key match decisions are correct now, 97 percent of assistants decisions are correct, so it is having an impact on the outcome of games, on the league tables, which is what you wanted to happen and as a league we want to work really hard on ironing out those other issues and that is what we are discussing with clubs. So when we get to April there will be a bigger conversation about what sort of VAR clubs want to have in the Premier League next season.”