In a recent turn of events, the referees’ governing body has finally released the audio recording from Saturday’s VAR blunder, which wrongly disallowed Liverpool’s goal for offside in their 2-1 defeat to Tottenham. The blunder occurred when Mohamed Salah slipped the ball to Luis Diaz, who expertly finished into the far bottom corner. Despite clear evidence of Diaz being onside, the linesman’s flag cut short the celebrations, leading to a quick VAR check and a free-kick to Spurs, who eventually won the match 2-1 due to a late own goal by Joel Matip.
After the game, it was revealed that VAR Darren England had mistakenly confirmed the on-field decision of offside as correct. The audio clip, now released to the public, sheds light on the confusion and dismay that engulfed the VAR room upon realizing the mistake. The conversation between officials highlighted the miscommunication that led to the incorrect decision, causing frustration for both teams and fans alike.
Following this incident, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) took swift action. They provided Liverpool access to the VAR audio and publicly shared the transcript, revealing the sequence of events and the panic that ensued in the VAR room. PGMOL acknowledged the human error and confirmed that measures would be implemented to prevent such errors in the future.
In their official statement, PGMOL explained the details of the error. The VAR team correctly checked every aspect of the goal, but due to a lapse in concentration, the VAR incorrectly confirmed the on-field decision of offside without consulting the Assistant VAR (AVAR). This mistake was made without any dialogue with the AVAR, leading to the incorrect decision. Despite attempts to rectify the error, play had already restarted, preventing any intervention.
To prevent similar errors, PGMOL outlined key learnings, emphasizing the importance of accuracy over efficiency. They announced the development of a new VAR Communication Protocol to enhance communication between the referee and the VAR team, emphasizing the need for clarity in on-field decisions. Additionally, the VAR will now confirm the outcome of the VAR check with the AVAR before finalizing the decision for the on-field officials.
In response to the blunder, VAR Darren England and assistant Dan Cook have been stood down from the upcoming Premier League fixtures. Furthermore, both PGMOL and the FA will review their policy on allowing officials to referee overseas matches, ensuring that officials are adequately prepared for their roles.
This incident serves as a reminder of the challenges and complexities involved in modern football officiating. As governing bodies continue to evolve their protocols, the goal remains clear: to uphold the integrity of the game and ensure that decisions are made accurately and fairly on the field.