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VAR off to a shaky start in English Premier League

Calls for tweaks to Video Assistant Referee system after its debut in the English top flight

The use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for the first time in the English Premier League bewildered fans and experts alike last weekend, prompting demands for change.

The VAR system, previously used in England in the FA and League Cups, is supposed to eradicate any doubt that the right decision has been taken over goals, penalties and other key moments.

There were several contentious calls.

They included a penalty re-taken by Manchester City's Sergio Aguero because of encroachment by defenders in their 5-0 hammering of West Ham United.

There was also a disallowed goal for Wolverhampton Wanderers' Leander Dendoncker due to the ball striking teammate Willy Boly on the arm before he scored.

"We are going to have to play with our hands chopped off in future," was the reaction from Wolves captain Conor Coady.

The EPL's all-time top scorer Alan Shearer, meanwhile, took issue with leaving the paying fans inside the stadia unaware of why the decision has either been taken or overruled.

TV viewers, in contrast, see the images being studied by the VAR referee - based in a studio in London - although they cannot hear the conversation between the officials.

"What would be a massive improvement for me would be if the fans could actually hear what the referee is hearing from the VAR officials," Shearer wrote in his column for The Sun.

"After all, the fans pay the money to be inside the stadium and watch their team play, so if they can hear why the referee or the VAR official has come to a particular decision, then that would benefit everyone.

"If they know why the decision has been made and they can hear it, then it would give them a better understanding of what's going on."


The lack of transparency was highlighted in Martin Samuel's column for The Daily Mail, in which he revealed that after the match, neither West Ham nor Man City directors knew why Aguero's penalty had been retaken.

"The reason for the re-shoot was sent, by e-mail, to members of the press about 10 minutes after the incident; perhaps when the Premier League heard even City's fans, whose team had benefited from the call, serenading the officials with a chorus of, 'What the f*** is going on?'" wrote Samuel.

Former EPL referee Keith Hackett concurred about the need for more transparency in his column for The Daily Telegraph. "My last plea, however, would be for an even greater emphasis on transparency," wrote Hackett.

"The Premier League should publish, as a matter of routine, a breakdown of all the VAR checks made during a match, detailing what they were for and what the verdict was.

"I would also be keen on the video footage being studied in Stockley Park (where the VAR referee is based) being played on the big screen inside the grounds, so fans can understand what is happening in real time.

"Innovations can be hard to gain acceptance - the more transparent and open the authorities are about how they are being used, and why, the better for everyone." - AFP