Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has called for Premier League managers to get together with match officials to resolve the ongoing issues with the use of the video assistant referee (VAR).
United have fallen foul of highly dubious VAR decisions several times already this season, with the latest being Marcus Rashford’s sending off and a penalty for a Harry Maguire hand ball against FC Copenhagen on Wednesday, which ultimately cost United the match and potentially a place in the knockout stages of the prestigious competition.
Last weekend, Maguire was at the centre of things again, being given offside when Scott McTominay looked to have scored a good goal, even though he was not in a position that could be considered to be interfering with play.
Asked whether he was frustrated by some of the decisions, Ten Hag replied:
“Yes, but I think as managers collectively, we have to talk with the PGMOL to improve football and togetherness and find solutions and togetherness, not debate it in public.” (source: MUTV via manutd.com).
One area that is on the agenda for Premier League managers is a call for PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Limited, responsible for providing match officials] to simplify what is a “clear and obvious error”. Managers are frustrated at the inconsistency with which VAR intervenes with on-pitch decisions.
Ten Hag’s request comes alongside a report from The Telegraph claiming that “football’s lawmakers” intend to instigate major reforms to the VAR system.
According to the outlet, “The International Football Association Board (Ifab) has begun a series of consultations over what changes should be made ahead of the first serious review of Var since its introduction seven years ago.”
One likely change will be the introduction next season of semi-automated offside technology.
This system uses “12 tracking cameras mounted underneath the roof of the stadium to track the ball and up to 29 data points of each individual player – calculating their exact position on the pitch, plus a chip in the ball to determine if it was played by a defender or attacker,” The Sun explains.
“So in the case of an offside situation, the video operations room will receive an automated alert alongside an automatic selected point and an instant drawn lines within seconds of the incident.
“Extra VAR officials will be in charge of calling offsides with the algorithm providing a 3D animation to explain a call in an average of 25 seconds.”
Complex situations, for example where there is more than one incident at the same time, would be resolved by the on-pitch referee.
The decision would be shown on the stadium’s big screens so that fans can understand what has happened.
Other changes will probably take longer before they are rolled out as they will need to be trialled first in 2023/24, The Telegraph says.
These might include the live airing of the VAR decision, as was seen in the recent Rugby World Cup.
“PGMOL is also facing calls from managers for a referee to be paired with the same Var as often as possible, as is currently the case with assistant referees, and to clarify the threshold for overturning ‘clear and obvious’ errors,” The Telegraph adds.
PGMOL head, Howard Webb, is also keen to introduce specially trained VAR officials but IFAB currently requires the VAR to be manned by current or former referees.
Whatever is decided, little is likely to change this season and Ten Hag can only simply hope that common sense will start to prevail and that United will get at least an even share of decisions going their way.