As a grassroots referee you look up to the elite officials to pave the way for you, to make the life of a referee easier by top class performances which can be justified when fans, pundits and others disagree.
The processes our PGMOL officials have to follow regards VAR is totally flawed and embarrassing all other match officials. More often than not you can see why a referee has made a decision or why something has been missed.
Now referees are far more accurate than players and consistency is far better than players, the thing is a referee can’t afford to have a bad game and at the top its great to see technology introduced to help this faster moving game then previously known.
We have goal line technology working at 500 frames per second and VAR only working at 50 Frames per second, allowing margin for error and alienating the supporters more against the match officials and against VAR.
Other technology is simpler in the game and that is buzzer flags to get the referees attention over the noise of the crowd when sometimes they can be missed, and communication kits to build a team and “all seeing eye” as the third team on the pitch.
The Chelsea vs Manchester United game in the Premier League on 17th Feb 2020 showed all the flaws in the process of VAR and the insistence of the PGMOL and Premier League to use non IFAB protocols.
Let’s look at the game, the big talking point was the Harry Maguire Red Card. This is a 100% nailed on red card; the camera angle from behind the dugouts showed it in all its easy to make decision. Yet VAR Chris Kavannagh did not advise Anthony Taylor this was a red. There is more to the issue of VAR in this situation. Firstly did Chris have the camera angle from behind the dugouts, after hearing that the foul was missed on Van Dijk at Norwich at weekend because the correct camera angle wasn’t available is really bad.
Now lets look at the clear and obvious error, which it certainly was, however and this is a huge however if Anthony Taylor via the communication kit says what he’s seen and its not a clear and obvious error, Chris Kavannagh cannot overrule him. As rubbish as it sounds its what happens, “Anthony says yes I’ve seen he’s caught him, and he’s protected himself and he’s happy with that decision” Kavannagh can’t come in.
He will want to, 100% he will want to, but following the protocol he can’t. So procedure maybe let us down, or has technology and the correct angle let us down? Next part of this is the assistant referee and the 4th official: what are they doing; what are they communicating?
I remember a few years back on an FA Cup game I was assistant and Ken Haycock was referee, our technology was buzzer flags only and good old fashioned refereeing. A huge shout for handball right in front of the dugouts on blind side to Ken, I was further down the line “technically outside of credibility zone” but with a clear view. He looked at me and I was nodding as he blew I flagged to back him up, the decision was a good one. So why are an elite assistant referee and 4th official not seeing this and using the comms to say thats a red? This is teamwork and I would expect colleagues to help out. So where is the procedure wrong, what are assistants instructed to do nowadays?
One last question regards this “cock up” was how far away was the pitchside monitor from the incident, yet again we fail the game. I say “we” because as a referee decisions like this reflect on all of us.
VAR is then involved when Chelsea bring the game back to 1-2, something worrying was. The very strong two handed push clear for everyone to see was not spotted in real time by Taylor. VAR correctly looked at this and then wrongly rule out the goal, it was a push a very clear push, but there was another push prior to this on Taylor’s blindside. You could argue there wasn’t enough for a penalty so therefore you wouldn’t have given it so the larger push was the offence. This would be week and the goal should have stood, worse case scenario I would have preferred Taylor to make such a big decision by accessing the pitchside monitor.
The offside was an easy one compared to some we’ve seen and it was visible to the naked eye – so no need for lines. The MLS system looks at these very quickly by the naked eye and gets on with the game. Simple but effective.
One incident no-one seems to talk about was when Fred was fouled outside the area by holding and this continued into the area, was this looked at? In the laws of the game if you are holding onto a player outside the penalty area and carries on into the area its a penalty? No replays were shown apart from showing initial hold was outside, but they didn’t look when the player let go. Are we officiating to the laws or PGMOL / Premier League guidelines, it is certainly wrong.
As a grassroots referee it upsets me and makes me angry this looks bad on me, my friends and colleagues as well as all referees, and yet transparency is a non existent word from the top.
I will sign off to remind fans, coaches etc your players make far more errors than the match officials, far far more. However this game discussed could have been so much better from all involved.