OFFICIALS and VAR are turning the English game into a complete farce.
We all make mistakes — but not on the level we are now seeing from Premier League officials.
However, I have sympathy for the men in the middle, because the management from the PGMOL is creating confusion and failing the game through a clear lack of leadership and direction — leading to officiating which is nowhere near the quality it should be at this level.
The training and coaching that officials receive is also severely sub-standard.
Referees need help and they would get it if the PGMOL was to use the elite-level experience of retired referees. Changes urgently need to be made, including listening to the communication between referees and VAR officials.
I feel the people at Stockley Park are leading the conversations and causing games to effectively being re-refereed.
All they need to be told is when they have made a ‘clear and obvious error’ — which is precisely what VAR was introduced to eradicate — like Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe’s off-the-ball headbutt on Leeds’ Ezgjan Alioski.
The way the system is implemented is creating too much doubt in referees’ minds and we are seeing muddled decision-making.
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith saw his team denied a penalty after a decision was overturned in injury time of their 2-1 defeat to Brighton.
Smith had every right to be furious and even opposition manager Graham Potter admitted he is clueless about what now counts as a spot-kick.
Michael Oliver indicated Solly March ‘won’ the ball before catching Villa winger Trezeguet.
But in my opinion that IS a foul because Brighton’s March only brushed the ball after Trezeguet played on to him.
Trezeguet would clearly have taken the next touch, although he does himself no favours with the theatrical way he goes down.
Was it a ‘clear and obvious error’ from Oliver? Absolutely not.
I believe Oliver should have stuck with his original decision after being recommended a review and not been put under pressure by Stockley Park.
A similar incident at Old Trafford left West Brom boss Slaven Bilic furious when referee David Coote changed his mind to award a penalty after Bruno Fernandes fouled Conor Gallagher.
Like March, Fernandes touched the ball before fouling his opponent. Was it a ‘clear and obvious error?’ Absolutely not.
Both incidents should not have been recommended for a pitchside review — and whatever was said between officials should be broadcasted to create the transparency which fans, players and coaches want.
Even if we were to accept VAR is being overused to re-referee games and not just for ‘clear and obvious errors’, then just let the referees view the screens — like in rugby union — with minimal interference.
Working in Stockley Park the day before a game, as officials often do, is no way to prepare to referee a Premier League match.
Active officials should stay active, with former referees working at Stockley Park — as I understand they do in the MLS.
Another problem is referees and governing bodies like Uefa, Fifa and lawmakers Ifab are confused about what are ‘unnatural’ and ‘natural’ positions for arms with regard to the interpretation of the handball law.
It is leading to lots of incorrect decisions and farcical penalties, like the one Rennes conceded in their Champions League defeat at Chelsea.
Players are throwing their hands from natural positions into unnatural ones — like behind their back — and it is wreaking havoc.
We need to stop this farce which is driving fans away at a time when the game needs them most.
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