VAR IS HERE TO STAY

There is no doubt that the major talking point at the elite end of our great game is the way in which VAR (Video Assistant Referee) is been applied in the Premier League.

I need to say from the onset that I am a great believer in the use of technology to support and enhance the quality of referee decisions.

When I became the boss of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd the organisation responsible for the selection, training of referees at the professional level,

Communication between the referee and the Assistant referees was carried out through a series of flag signals

When you are out in the middle trying to pick out a flag it can be difficult when it is lost in the background of supporters wearing various colours in the stands behind the Assistant

So, having watched Rugby Union I decided to go to Twickenham and listen in to the conversation between the Referee and touch judges through a communication system REFLINK.

Yes, for a fiver I could listen to how the referee was managing players and it certainly added to the entertainment.

Within a few days, I had convinced the Board of Directors at the PGMOL and we introduced the use of the ADENUS Communication kits in the Premier and Football League. These are now standard in games around the world at the professional level.

They worked superbly apart from at Chelsea where during games the early version of the system started to pick up signals from mobiles requesting cabs in Kensington High Street to go to Oxford Street. Hardly something the match officials want in an intense game where concentration is so important.

I recall after the introduction of the communication kits standing up in front of the Premier Club owners at the annual conference and requesting them to support the introduction of goal-line technology.

I was given the go-ahead I then began to work closely with Hawkeye to develop and work towards its introduction into the Premier League.

This also included getting approval from the IFAB governing body.

The introduction of VAR, of course, was through a different process, the stimulation for its introduction coming from the International Football Association Board.

Following two years of experimentation around the world and a successful introduction into the World Cup, the statistics supported strongly why it should be applied in elite competitions.

The Premier League came to the party late and in the opening weeks of operation, we have witnessed several errors.

So, what needs to be done to improve its application.

1, Work to the IFAB VAR Criteria.

2. Use ex-referees of the likes of Poll. Halsey, Winter, Durkin who were outstanding experienced officials,

3 Make use of the pitchside monitor.

4 Play the replays of incidents on the big screens and let the fans and media listen in.

5, Learn from the errors.

VAR is here to stay and its application on the field of play must improve

Keith Hackett
Former Head of PGMOL
Senior Consultant to Keys to Football