VAR: Premier League referees helped by pilots and air traffic controllers

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
VAR: How referees make decisions

Pilots and air traffic controllers have been helping England's top referees.

It is part of Howard Webb's drive, as head of refereeing, to improve standards around the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Two pilots spoke at a Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) training camp last month.

They offered their insight into the best method of communication in a stressful situation where multiple voices are having an input.

A previous visit last year from air traffic control staff, prior to Webb taking on his role at PGMOL in December 2022, was arranged for the same reason.

Webb has been on the back foot following a number of VAR controversies this season.

On the opening weekend of the Premier League campaign, he had to apologise to Wolves manager Gary O'Neil after Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana was not punished for punching striker Sasa Kalajdzic in the face in stoppage time.

Wolves lost the game 1-0.

Then Liverpool were denied a goal at Tottenham in farcical circumstances on 30 September when VAR Darren England thought he had confirmed a Luis Diaz goal but was actually endorsing an incorrect on-field offside decision against the Reds forward. Spurs won the game 2-1.

Meanwhile, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is facing an FA charge after calling the decision to award Newcastle a goal in their match at St James' Park on 4 November "a disgrace".

In Arteta's view, VAR ignored three incidents in the build-up all of which would have seen Anthony Gordon's effort disallowed.

The following day Arsenal released a statement in defence of Arteta.

Webb subsequently said on the internationally-broadcast Premier League Match Officials Mic'd Up programme he believed the decision to allow the goal had been correct.

In last month's meeting, as reported by The Times, it was outlined that pilots have communication with numerous people before take-off and often have to speak to operators for whom English is not their first language.

The need for clarity and accuracy was stressed.

Although match referees do not hear the conversations in the VAR hub, there can often be three voices talking at the same time, with the VAR periodically communicating with the referee to let him know what is happening.

In the aftermath of the Diaz incident, Webb introduced new communication protocols, which included confirmation over what the VAR was confirming.

Meanwhile, it is understood Webb has also reminded referees of the need to take action against players waving imaginary cards after what appeared to be a lessening of the hard-line approach used at the start of the season.

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