VAR’s Opera of Errors: Unravelling the Tottenham-Liverpool Fiasco
The Aftermath of the VAR Misfire
In a week rife with football controversies, perhaps none loomed larger than the VAR fiasco during the Tottenham versus Liverpool match. The much-maligned technology found itself under the glare once more, prompting an extensive deep dive from the referees’ association, PGMOL, into the operational protocols surrounding VAR.
Melody of Miscommunication
Imagine the quiet hum of the VAR room, the weight of the Premier League’s gaze focused intently on screens, awaiting the all-clear. But as fate would have it, in the symphony that is top-tier football, someone played a wrong note.
The key moment of contention was the controversial Luis Diaz goal which was erroneously flagged offside. Despite the clear mistake, VAR Darren England’s hesitance to correct it stemmed from his misinterpretation: believing that the on-field officials had already awarded the goal.
Now, it’s worthy of noting the intense dynamics and swift exchanges that occur behind the scenes. The audio – released in the wake of Liverpool’s demands and subsequently shared by the Premier League – captures the raw confusion, with the relay operator questioning England’s call. As England briefly concurs with the decision, assistant VAR Dan Cook interjects, quite simply putting it: “That’s wrong, that, Daz.”
The iron-clad laws of football, however, dictated that once the game restarted, it was set in stone. The VAR couldn’t rectify its earlier blunder. As Oli Kohout, the VAR hub operations executive, frantically motioned for a game delay, England’s helpless response echoed the conundrum: “They’ve restarted the game… I can’t do anything.”
🚨 @PremierLeague release official VAR audio from Luis Diaz's disallowed goal vs Tottenham.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) October 3, 2023
PGMOL’s Retrospective Encore
The repercussions of the misstep were immediate. In a candid moment of self-reflection, PGMOL admitted, “standards fell short of expectations”, acknowledging the blunder and assuring corrective measures. Among the key takeaways from their internal review:
- Precision over Pace: While efficiency has always been in focus, it shouldn’t overshadow accuracy. This tenet will be emphasised anew.
- Bridge of Clarity: A fresh communication protocol is on the horizon. The aim? To amplify the clarity of communication between on-field referees and the VAR team.
- Seal of Confirmation: Before finalising any decision, the VAR will sync up with the AVAR.
Further iterating their commitment to rectify the system, PGMOL mentioned, “A new training programme which started this season aims to optimise VAR performance, focusing on process and best practices.”
The Itinerary’s Tiring Note
Of course, one can’t help but wonder if fatigue played its part. Both England and Cook, having been momentarily excused from Premier League duties, had embarked on a six-hour journey from the UAE just a day prior. Having officiated a Pro League match on Thursday night, the duo’s exhaustive schedule seems to hint at a broader discussion. Now, PGMOL, alongside the FA, are reconsidering the policy which allows match officials such foreign commitments outside of FIFA or UEFA.
Football, in its essence, is a dance of details, and even the slightest misstep can resonate for a lifetime.