On Saturday, many football supporters were up in arms over a couple of bizarre VAR decisions, as Newcastle United and West Ham United were denied seemingly legitimate goals against Crystal Palace and Chelsea respectively.
Neither decision seemed to meet the criteria for an overturn, given they weren’t clear and obvious errors, yet both were disallowed despite the on-field referees’ original decisions.
Referees’ body PGMOL has accepted those overturns were wrong and plan to co-operate with a Premier League review of the incidents, according to the BBC.
The following day, Arsenal were denied an excellent goal at Old Trafford because Martin Odegaard was adjudged to have fouled Cristian Eriksen earlier in the move.
Again, the referee had seen the incident and given the goal before VAR intervened.
It was another debatable decision that certainly didn’t seem to meet the ‘clear and obvious error’ threshold, yet it was overturned, and Manchester United went on to win the match.
The decision was particularly frustrating given some of the other VAR calls involving Arsenal and Manchester United this season.
Brighton were denied a penalty against United when Lisandro Martinez barged Danny Welbeck to the ground without any attempt to play the ball, and the VAR decision was to stick with the ‘no penalty’ call without an on-field review.
Then Arsenal were denied a penalty when Tyrone Mings picked Bukayo Saka up and threw him to the ground. Once again, the VAR didn’t intervene. Nor did they do anything about Aaron Ramsdale being held for Aston Villa’s corner goal.
Yet when Odegaard made less contact in an incident much further from goal, the referee was recommended to review the footage 10 or more times on the pitch-side monitor. It’s no wonder he decided to overturn it.
If the VAR directive is to stick with the on-field decision unless it’s a blatant mistake, you can understand that. When Welbeck and Saka don’t get their penalties, you can reason that perhaps that’s just the price you pay to keep the game from too much interference.
Yet the decisions involving Odegaard and Joe Willock and Jarrod Bowen are examples of exactly the opposite, with VAR interfering in decisions that were arguably correct the first time.
A review of the VAR process is entirely necessary, and you hope it will help lead to some kind of consistency in the future. But I’m not holding my breath.