Every single football fan probably has their own opinion on the Video Assistant Referee technology, and despite all of the kind words and arguments that it has improved the accuracy of decisions in the beautiful game, the vast majority of supporters simply do not believe it – and would point to the extraordinary errors and cock ups that keep occurring.
That is without even getting into how it has ruined the immediate emotional reaction to a goal being scored with the endless checks and delays we now have, but VAR are determined to improve standards (particularly in light of some of their more recent disasters) and as part of Howard Webb’s drive to do just that, he recently invited two pilots in to give a talk on accurate and efficient communication skills.
Last month the two pilots attended the Professional Game Match Official Ltd training camp to talk to referees and officials and to offer their insights into the best method for good communication during stressful situations, particularly when multiple voices are in play. A previous visit was actually held last year (December 2022) just ahead of Webb taking up his current role, and that featured a talk and advice from air traffic control staff, so the benefits from a second talk are widely open for debate.
It certainly will not put Webb back on the front foot after recent controversies. The opening weekend saw him forced to apologise to Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Gary O’Neil after Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana was not punished for punching Sasa Kalajdzic in the face – they ultimately lost 1-0.
More recently there was the utter shambles in the Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool match where it seems the VAR team totally mis-understood what they were supposed to be checking and in thinking they were confirming Luis Diaz’s goal as being onside, they actually confirmed an in-correct on pitch decision that he was offside. Liverpool went on to lose the game 2-1.
Match referees and officials do not have the opportunity to hear the full conversation that takes place during a decision check, VAR simply periodically communicates a short update to them to let them know what is happening and where they are in the process, and following the Diaz incident Webb introduced new communication protocols which now includes a confirmation of what VAR is supposed to be confirming.
You would have thought that would already be the case and be pretty obvious, but welcome to VAR.
One thing is for sure, this is not going to be the last controversy this season.