VAR sparks controversy every week in the Premier League, but how are decisions made and are they correct?
After each weekend, we look at the most high-profile incidents and review the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.
With just six matches this weekend, due to the FA Cup semi-finals, there were fewer talking points – but still a few to discuss.
– Craziest VAR moments: Alisson’s two red cards in one game
– How VAR has affected every Premier League club
– VAR in the Premier League: ultimate guide
What happened: The score was 0-0 in the 27th minute when Tottenham Hotspur striker Dejan Kulusevski battled with Brighton & Hove Albion defender Marc Cucurella. As the pair separated, Kulusevski appeared to land an elbow into his opponent’s chest without making contact. The referee, Craig Pawson, issued a yellow card to the Spurs player.
VAR Decision: VAR Lee Mason decided it wasn’t a clear and obvious mistake on the referee’s part to only show the yellow card, so he didn’t advise changing it to red.
VAR process: One of the cornerstones of the VAR process is that VAR should not intervene if the referee’s decision (in this case a warning) can be considered an acceptable outcome. Also, as the VAR intervention threshold in the Premier League is higher, it means there is less chance of a yellow card being upgraded to red if the referee saw the incident.
VAR review: We had a number of incidents similar to this, such as Sadio Mane for Liverpool v Chelsea and Kai Havertz for Chelsea v Newcastle. Either way, the players could be judged for pushing the challenges too hard with their arms and given a red card. As with Kulusevski, a yellow was displayed and was not ruled an error.
True, in Kulusevski’s example, if referee Pawson had shown the red card, he would not have been knocked down. The Sweden international threw his elbow back and although he had minimal contact, it could still be considered violent conduct.
Several former referees think it should have been a red card, but with VAR there is a difference between what could subjectively be a red card and what VAR will judge as a clear and obvious error. Would the result have been different if Kulusevski had had more contact with his opponent? This is probably the case, although in law it is not necessary to have contact for a player to be sent off.
What happened: The game was scoreless in the 30th minute when Newcastle United’s Bruno Guimaraes was disallowed a goal for a foul on Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
VAR Decision: The goal was awarded, with Schmeichel deemed to have no control of the ball when kicked by Guimaraes.
VAR review: A simple decision for the VAR, which was again Lee Mason. The referee, Jarred Gillett, believed that the goalkeeper had the ball in his hands and therefore under his control.
However, VAR replays made it clear that the ball was loose when Guimaraes kicked it past the goalkeeper’s legs. Correct decision to award the goal.
What happened: Watford thought they had scored to make it 1-1 against Brentford, only for the linesman to raise his flag against Ismaila Sarr, who had fed the ball past Emmanuel Dennis to score.
VAR Decision: The goal was allowed after Sarr was ruled in by VAR Graham Scott.
VAR process: Offside, VAR will always go with the result of the technology, provided by Hawk-Eye. The technology is mapped to each pitch individually and calibrated at the start of each match, so the process of determining player positions is predefined. VAR has to select the most advanced part of attacker and defender, but technology does the rest.
VAR review: It’s a classic VAR call that looks like it should be offside, but technology tells VAR it’s onside. The human eye can’t calculate the exact position of the two players relative to each other. to another from a 2D image, that’s the whole point of the technology. This means that an attacker may appear offside (or even wide), but once the technology takes into account the camera angle, the actual decision may be different.
In this move, the defender’s toe is basically level with Sarr’s upper arm.
Sarr would have been offside under the old VAR offside method. However, since the start of this season, a tolerance level, or benefit of the doubt, has been added – taking into account potential inaccuracies in the system – to judge an in-game player if they are indeed “level”. With this level of tolerance, if the attacker’s and defender’s offside lines touch, then the decision is in play.
This was introduced to remove marginal offside decisions like Patrick Bamford for Leeds United at Crystal Palace last season when he was offside because he was pointing where he wanted the ball played. Like Sarr, this goal would be on the edge of tolerance but would not be ruled out this season.
A problem this season is the final image: when it is so marginal, only the line of the defender is displayed, in green. It feels like showing the two lines would be confusing, as they would essentially be sitting on top of each other. Many supporters don’t like this, as they also want to see the striker’s line for clarity.
With Watford’s decision onside, the green defensive line is drawn at the defender’s boot. It looks like Sarr is leaning over the line, but that’s just a trick from the camera’s perspective. His body does not cross the green line, because the green line is on the grass and does not cross the air. When the lines were drawn towards Sarr, his upper arm was shown to be within the tolerance level for the outside.
It’s a decision that will definitely confuse fans, but will be much better when the new semi-automated offside with improved visualization arrives for the World Cup in November and all domestic leagues in 2023-24.
I told you all about it for a long time, now see it in action.
Semi-automated VAR took off at the Club World Cup.
It’s a big improvement with:
– Quick decision making
– Superior Hawk-Eye visualization
– Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) February 4, 2022
There was a similar situation with Teemu Pukki’s goal for Norwich at Manchester United. Here, the decision on the field was at stake, supported by technology. It was close, however, as shown by the use of the only green line to the defender.
Information provided by the Premier League and PGMOL has been used in this story.