Get your daily update and weekly newsletter by signing up today!


Howard Webb on new steps taken to eradicate VAR errors such as the Liverpool one against Spurs

2 months ago

Howard Webb promised to improve the standard of refereeing / match officials and give more transparency over VAR decisions and how they ended up having been made.

I think safe to say the PGMOL chief has clearly succeeded with one promise / aspiration, whilst on the other…

Where Howard Webb has delivered on this season, is giving more transparency on how VAR decisions have been arrived at.

The only problem though with that, is it has coincided with even more and worse VAR decisions getting made in these Premier League games so far this season, leading to perhaps fan perception of match officials being at an all-time low.

Howard Webb now coming up with his latest update / transparency (see below) on the situation with VAR and match officials.

My personal views are that fans definitely want to see things happen more quickly when it comes to VAR involvement.

Fair enough, when you end up with a key complicated incident that has many facets to it, then they need to take the time it takes to try and get it right.

However, I think the Premier League for sure should be using automated offside decisions as was the case in the World Cup and ensured that those decisions were repeatedly made swiftly. The whole idea of VAR was to get rid of clear and obvious errors, so trying to work out whether somebody is inches offside is ridiculous. That Alexander Isak second ‘goal’ at Anfield last season when he was judged to be an inch offside just inside the Liverpool half before going on to run half the length of the pitch, put two Liverpool defenders on their backsides with outrageous skill, then beat Alisson with a class finish, is not what VAR was/is supposed to be doing. Plus it still isn’t even clear whether Isak was offside, as the exact frame that they use can massively alter the outcome, in those split seconds when a ball is first touched by a boot and when it then ends contact with the foot.

I also think that within all of this, there has to be an acceptance from fans that some mistakes WILL still get made by referees, VAR, match officials, whoever.

This I think is a massive problem, whereby expectations are that mistakes will never happen. Which can never be the case when humans are involved, we are all fallible!

What is lost for me, is that even when clear mistakes are happening now in this VAR era, they are absolutely minimal compared to what used to happen before VAR was introduced. Every single game you watched on TV, there were countless mistakes AND cheating taking place, that everybody just kind of accepted as ‘talking points’ after matches.

Just think back to how bad you felt when you had been at a match and saw Newcastle United lose, then when watching the TV highlights later on, you found out that the defeat came directly due to some outrageous bit of cheating from an opposition player?

This is what isn’t measured these days, the number of mistakes that would be made now, if VAR wasn’t operating.

I think now, most of the cheating that used to go on, doesn’t anymore, as only the stupidest players still go ahead an try it on to win penalties or whatever, despite knowing that if a decision is given and it is a clear bit of cheating missed by the referee, then 99.99% certain that VAR will flag it up. The player booked and potentially sent off for a second yellow, as we saw with Tottenham’s Bissouma at the weekend.

BBC Sport report after Howard Webb spoke to ‘Match Officials: Mic’d Up’ about eradicating VAR mistakes, especially in the light of the blunder during Tottenham 2 Liverpool 1:

Referees’ chief Howard Webb says steps have been taken to avoid a repeat of the controversy surrounding Luis Diaz’s disallowed goal for Liverpool against Tottenham.

Video assistant referee (VAR) Darren England did not overrule when Diaz was wrongly flagged offside last month.

Liverpool lost the game 2-1.

“We’ve put quite a lot of steps in place to ensure the error that we saw doesn’t happen again,” Webb told Match Officials: Mic’d Up.

In audio recordings of discussions between the match officials made public by referees’ body the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), England says the check is “perfect” before swearing when he realises a mistake has been made.

Webb said VAR had “fallen short” on this occasion and the PGMOL needed to act, with new VAR communication guidelines being applied since then.

“One of things this brought into sharp focus is the need to reiterate some of those communication protocols which are really valuable in VAR to prevent this type of thing happening,” added Webb on Sky Sports and TNT Sports.

“We got all of the officials together, we spoke through the need to go through that process very diligently.

“We’re really disappointed for the game, we’re disappointed for our reputation.

“We worked hard over the subsequent days to have a look at what we needed to do to put in place those safeguards around the communication to avoid that sort of thing happening again.”

Webb said small changes to VAR could be made by the International Football Association Board (Ifab) – the body that determines the laws of the game – in the near future.

“I know that Ifab, in fact before this situation even happened, I knew that they were going to do a full review of the laws of the game relating to the use of VAR,” he added.

As England realised an error had been made, Liverpool were on the attack through left-back Andy Robertson and Diaz.

The ball was cleared into touch and play stopped before a Liverpool throw-in.

At this point Oli Kohout – the VAR Hub operations manager, who was in a different room to the VAR team – communicated the game should be delayed in a bid to rectify the decision.

However, the team realised they were not allowed to do that under the laws of the game relating to VAR – one of the areas Webb suggested Ifab may look at.

“They considered whether or not they could intervene to stop the game. But they recognised that the laws of the game as set by Fifa and the International Football Advisory Board doesn’t allow that,” Webb said.

“That’s a process in place that sits in the laws of the game about how we use VAR to make sure it’s delivered consistently throughout every league on the world, and it doesn’t allow you to go back in those circumstances and as such they decided not to intervene.”

What are the changes?

“We took the unusual step of releasing the audio from this situation not long after it happened,” Webb said.

“We wanted to show everybody what was quickly apparent to us was a pretty significant human error – loss of concentration.

“One of the things that we have to do is put things in place to ensure that should we have human error, it doesn’t have the damaging impact that we saw on this occasion.

“We want the on-field referee to communicate to the VAR what the on-field decision is, very clearly. Then the VAR to go back to the on-field referee and acknowledge that they’ve heard that properly.

“The VAR goes through the process then of checking the situation giving clear direction to the replay operator to get the right angles, speaking to that assistant VAR as they go through that as well, so the assistant VAR can be another check and balance, before communicating to the field, speaking to the AVAR [assistant VAR] to say what their intended direction of travel is going to be.

“Then, at that moment, not just saying ‘check complete, check complete’ because what are you check completing?”


If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to

Have your say

© 2023 The Mag. All Rights Reserved. Design & Build by Mediaworks