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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

VAR here to stay as Premier League clubs vote to keep controversial technology

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Football

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Premier League clubs have voted 19 to one to keep VAR next season.

The league confirmed there had been a vote in favour of continuing with the technology in 2024-25.

The PA news agency understands Wolves – who last month called the vote to scrap VAR – were ultimately the only club to back its abolition.

The Black Country club were understood to be adamant, even the day before the Premier League’s annual general meeting in Harrogate on Thursday, that they wanted a vote to take place, even though they anticipated a heavy defeat.

They said last month VAR had led to “numerous unintended consequences that are damaging the relationship between fans and football” and that the system was “undermining the Premier League brand”.

The Premier League, its clubs and referees’ body Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) acknowledged that improvements needed to be made for the benefit of the game and supporters.

Semi-automated offside technology is set to be introduced in the autumn, which top-flight sources say will reduce the length of time required for offside checks, while in-stadium announcements will be made where an on-field decision is changed following a VAR intervention.

In-stadium communication of VAR decisions has been highlighted as an area for improvement

In-stadium communication of VAR decisions has been highlighted as an area for improvement (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

The Premier League said the “high threshold” for intervention would also be maintained and also hopes to improve the fan experience of VAR by offering big screen replays of all VAR interventions where possible.

The league said it would work with PGMOL on “more robust” training for officials to improve consistency, including an emphasis on speed while preserving accuracy. The league also promised “expanded communications” on VAR from its match centre and through continuing with programmes like Match Officials Mic’d Up.

The league said it will also continue to lobby the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which sets the laws of the game, to allow live video and audio broadcast during VAR reviews.

Recent supporter surveys indicate strong opposition to VAR. A Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) poll of more than 16,000 Red Devils fans found less than one per cent were in favour of keeping VAR in its current form. More than half – 50.6 per cent – were not even prepared to countenance any attempt to keep VAR even if it could be improved.

Wolves said in a statement: “While we are disappointed with the outcome of the vote on the future of VAR at today’s annual general meeting, we acknowledge and accept the decision made by our fellow clubs and we are reassured that the Premier League is taking the concerns of clubs and supporters seriously.

“We welcome the commitment to improve VAR, particularly in areas that address delays, consistency, and fan experience. While we still believe that Premier League football would be superior without VAR, we think that these improvements are crucial for the integrity of the game and for enhancing the overall matchday experience for our supporters.

“Wolves remain committed to working closely with the Premier League and PGMOL to ensure that VAR continues to evolve and better serve the interests of football. We appreciate the efforts being made to address the issues that have been highlighted and look forward to seeing these positive changes implemented.”

Fans have expressed frustration at the way VAR is implemented

Fans have expressed frustration at the way VAR is implemented (PA Wire)

Liverpool and Manchester United were among the clubs who were understood prior to Thursday’s vote to be supporters of keeping and improving VAR. A survey of 16,000 United fans conducted by their supporters’ trust found more than 50 per cent supported scrapping it regardless of any improvements that could be made.

Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), said: “Support for VAR has collapsed since its introduction into English football – it’s clear that in its current form it has made the match a less enjoyable experience. So much so that more than two-thirds of supporters now say they are against it.

“There’s a growing feeling from fans that the increase in decision-making accuracy is not a price worth paying for the huge impact VAR has had on the match-going experience.

“Enormous changes to the current system are required to improve things, particularly for supporters in stadiums. We cannot carry on like this.”

An FSA poll conducted last summer found only one in 20 who had experienced VAR in a stadium rated their experience of it as good or very good.

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