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Liverpool have made a formal request to receive the recording between officials from the weekend defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, while internal discussions have taken place within the Professional Game Match Officials Limited [PGMOL] over when to release the audio file. While it is now expected that will eventually happen, there has been a growing pressure to do so sooner rather than later.
That all comes amid disquiet among some of the other Premier League clubs over the strength of Liverpool’s statement.
Refereeing body PGMOL were forced to issue an apology for a “significant human error” after Luis Diaz scored in the first half, only to see the offside flag go up to rule out his strike. What has since followed can only be described as one of the more chaotic and improbable scenarios in the Premier League since the introduction of the video technology, as it was revealed VAR official Darren England drew lines to check for offside and determined Diaz was actually onside – but failed to realise that on-field referee Simon Hooper and his assistant officials had initially ruled the goal out for offside.
That meant they relayed a “check complete” decision, intending to mean a goal, but actually giving the go-ahead for a restart with a Tottenham free-kick, thus leaving Liverpool without a perfectly legitimate 1-0 lead in a match where they ended up having two sent-off and lost 2-1 late on.
The Anfield club released a statement saying “sporting integrity [was] undermined” and that they would “explore the range of options […] for escalation and resolution” – with their first step now being to now formally request to PGMOL for the audio between officials to be released to them.
The Independent has been told that there have been internal discussions over whether to publish the audio as early as Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football broadcast for the match between Fulham and Chelsea. There is a feeling the matter will only be settled once the recording is released, although one counter-argument is that a full review should take place first.
A number of officials at other Premier League clubs are expressing increased disgruntlement about the controversy, with a growing feeling that Liverpool should just accept that mistakes happen to get on with it like everyone else has. While there was initial sympathy for the Anfield club about the scale of the error, the strength of the subsequent statement perturbed other executives.
Among the reasons for that were a feeling that it could “open a can of worms” that sees every decision disputed in a way that sport can’t function, a suspicion that this could see referees pressured, and the basic idea that “it is what it is”. Other clubs have been privately stating that they have lost points and millions of pounds in prize money due to refereeing decisions, but they have accepted that’s just the nature of the game. None of this has yet led to significant backlash or open debate, but it is a sentiment that has been growing.
As was reflected in Liverpool’s statement, the Anfield club would argue that the scale of the error for the Diaz offside warrants greater transparency, and that it is for the better of the game as a whole.