Football: VAR marks English game debut

Brighton's Glenn Murray scoring his 87th-minute FA Cup winner against Crystal Palace on Monday. The VAR system corroborated referee Andre Marriner's decision to give the goal.
Brighton's Glenn Murray scoring his 87th-minute FA Cup winner against Crystal Palace on Monday. The VAR system corroborated referee Andre Marriner's decision to give the goal.PHOTO: REUTERS

Palace boss takes back harsh words directed at ref after system proves his call was correct

LONDON • Roy Hodgson admitted he had directed "spiteful" words at referee Andre Marriner, after watching Brighton striker Glenn Murray put his Crystal Palace team out of the FA Cup on Monday with a potentially controversial late goal to win the third-round tie 2-1.

The incident in the 87th minute of the game came after Palace's Bakary Sako had equalised following Dale Stephens' goal early in the first half.

But Hodgson changed his tune entirely after being assured that Murray had not used his hand to ease the ball over the line.

The assurances came via the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, which had been used for the first time in an English club match.

Hodgson was led to believe that the video assistant, Neil Swarbrick, who watched the game from a west London studio, had radioed through to Marriner to tell him that the goal should stand - or, at least, that there were no angles to prove that it ought to be disallowed.

"Without a doubt, I had my suspicions about their winning goal, fuelled by the reaction of my goalkeeper and the players who were close to the incident," the Palace manager said.

"They looked incensed. I made a few spiteful comments to the ref at the final whistle, but that's just my nature and I regret them now.

SPOT ON

(Video official) Swarbrick has seen it from a better angle and it's not a handball. So I have to congratulate the system and I have no complaints at all.

ROY HODGSON, Crystal Palace manager, admits Brighton's FA Cup winner was legitimate as proven by the VAR system.

"There is still a slight suspicion that the ball might have brushed Murray's arm but I think it was a genuine goal.

"There was a brief pause after the goal and I was under the impression that Marriner was talking to Swarbrick in the VAR studio. Swarbrick has seen it from a better angle and it's not a handball. So I have to congratulate the system and I have no complaints at all."

Chris Hughton, the Brighton manager, said: "I am under the impression that VAR was used on the goal and they didn't see an infringement. Having seen it again, it's reasonably clear it didn't hit his hand and there was no decision to be made."

The VAR was implemented fairly smoothly during the match but when it was introduced at last summer's Confederations Cup in Russia, there were various teething problems. Among them were concerns about long interruptions to play.

  • The digital arbiter

  • WHAT IS VAR (VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE)?

    To put it simply, VAR is a TV screen at the side of the football pitch or in the studio that a referee can depend on to review a decision.

    It involves video assistant referees watching the on-pitch action remotely and then drawing the match referee's attention to officiating mistakes.

    WHAT CAN BE SEEN THROUGH THE SYSTEM?

    The video assistant referee in charge will have access to every camera angle available and on top of that the four goal decision system cameras as well.

    More importantly, he will not see what broadcasters show - the replays, etc - so he will not be affected by external influences.

    WHEN DOES IT COME INTO PLAY?

    It will only be activated when a "clear and obvious error" is spotted by the video assistant referee.

    He will then have to inform the match referee, otherwise the latter's decision will stand.

    The match referee cannot seek the VAR if he is in doubt; he will have to first make a decision and the VAR will get involved only if required.

    WHAT CAN THE VAR ADJUDICATE?

    Only four areas - awarding of goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

    REUTERS

The system, which focuses only on checking whether a goal should stand, penalty awards, direct red cards and mistaken identity, has already been used in several leagues including the German Bundesliga and Italy's Serie A.

It could also feature in this year's World Cup Finals in Russia in June and July.

In the first half of the Serie A season alone, the system led to 45 corrections of initial refereeing decisions, according to the Italian Federation. On average, it is one every 4.2 matches.

Mike Riley, the director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited, said experiments have shown that the VAR is required only every two or three games and qualified his target of 2 per cent by saying that referees currently get 96 per cent of decisions correct.

"If we're saying that 4 per cent of decisions are wrong, a 2 per cent improvement is good for the game," he said. "As long as we don't increase interference."

With regard to critics who believe that too much technology will lead to too many stoppages during games, Riley added that the VAR will focus only on "clear and obvious" errors, noting that the aim is for "minimum interference, maximum benefit".

Football's law-making body IFAB is expected to decide in March whether to allow the VAR to become part of the game on a permanent basis.

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2018, with the headline 'Var marks English game debut'. Print Edition | Subscribe