Video Assistant Referee causes controversy every week in the Premier League, but how are decisions made, and are they correct?
After each weekend we look at the major incidents, to examine and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.
– How VAR decisions have affected every Prem club in 2023-24
– VAR in the Premier League: Ultimate guide
In this week’s VAR Review: Should Diogo Jota’s penalty for Liverpool against Newcastle United have been overturned? And is the VAR looking to support the on-field decision too much? Plus, all the incidents from the latest round of games.
VAR review: Premier League referees work under an instruction that contact must have a consequence if a spot kick is awarded, while the attacker should go down in a way that fits that contact.
On first viewing, it looked like Jota had simulated without contact. Yet upon watching the replays, the goalkeeper did catch the Liverpool forward’s left leg with his left arm. But does that mean this should remain a penalty with such a small amount of contact and a delayed fall?
Yet with the weight a referee’s decision on the field carries and the high threshold for a VAR intervention, penalties like this don’t tend to get overturned. Any evidence of contact leads to the VAR supporting the on-field call. We saw it with spot-kicks awarded against Wolves to Newcastle United and Sheffield United. There was negligible contact in both cases, though the Premier League’s Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said the VAR should have intervened in those cases.
The VAR requires such clear evidence of an error that, a few spot kicks get cancelled. Of the five overturned this season, only one has been for a foul (the other four were for handball.)
Was this enough to make Jota go down as he did, dragging his right foot along the ground two steps later? If Taylor hadn’t awarded a penalty it’s unlikely the VAR would have sent the referee to the monitor.
Most fans would prefer VAR get involved in situations like this to at least let the referee have another look, though that will require a change in the ethos of VAR and a lowering of the threshold. Right now a referee only goes to the monitor to confirm he has made a “clear and obvious” error rather than to check it.