'Obviously wrong' - Howard Webb makes Everton vs Nottingham Forest VAR admission

PGMOL chief Howard Webb speaks on the Mic'd Up
PGMOL chief Howard Webb -Credit:No credit

Howard Webb, the PGMOL chief, has confessed that Nottingham Forest should have been given a penalty in their contentious 2-0 Premier League loss to Everton earlier this month.

The Reds were saw three penalty appeals waved away by referee Anthony Taylor, prompting anger among the visitors. Following the match, Nottingham Forest criticised the refereeing of Taylor and Video Assistant Referee Stuart Attwell, accusing them of making "three extremely poor decisions".

The club also released a scathing statement suggesting bias towards relegation rivals Luton Town. One of these disputed decisions occurred in the second half when Everton defender Ashley Young seemed to trip Forest's Callum Hudson-Odoi as he sprinted towards the goal.

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Despite Forest's initial objections, Taylor was not advised to reassess the incident on the pitch-side VAR monitor, and the game proceeded. Webb has since disclosed that he would have "preferred" for Taylor to make a judgement on the incident after consulting the pitch-side monitor.

He suggests that if this had happened, a different decision might have been reached. During the latest episode of the Premier League's Mic'd Up referee show, Webb discussed Hudson-Odoi's penalty claim. Here's what he had to say:

Host and former England striker Michael Owen asked: "Everyone I've spoken to thinks that was a penalty. Explain how VAR came to that decision."

Webb responded: "I understand why we would have preferred an intervention on this situation. The referee waves away the penalty appeal. The VAR looks at it and asks himself the question, 'Was the non-award clearly and obviously wrong? ' and came to the conclusion it wasn't."

He continued: "You hear him describing two players tussling for the ball. He doesn't see a clear action by Young that he considers to be worthy of intervention, one that reaches the threshold of being very clear.

"But we would have preferred an intervention for the referee to go to the screen to make a judgement for himself in this situation and probably would have come out with a different outcome if that would've happened."

Owen then asked: "OK, during that audio, we hear Anthony Taylor mention that he thinks the ball was won by the defender Ashley Young. When the VAR quite clearly sees the ball isn't won, shouldn't that just straight away instigate, 'Right, you've seen it wrong. Go to the monitor,' or not? ".

To which Webb replied: "We did hear Anthony Taylor in the footage there say that he believed the ball had been played by Ashley Young, and we know that's not the case. We know only Callum Hudson-Odoi touches the ball."

"The first job of the VAR is to look at the footage available and make the judgement, 'Was the on-field decision clearly wrong? ' You could have a situation where the referee describes that the ball has been played by the defender.

"But actually when the VAR looks at it, sees that's not the case, but it's still not a penalty. It might be that the attacker has simulated, for example.

"So you can't only rely on what the referee is saying to make the judgement of whether something is clearly and obviously wrong. But if there's a VAR, you're looking at it thinking, 'Is it clearly wrong or not? ' You can absolutely factor in what the referee says as well."

"And if there's a particular aspect like, 'Who's played the ball? ' it's an important aspect that can be factored in to give the confidence to the VAR that, 'Yes, the referee needs to go to the screen because I believe this is clearly and obviously wrong.'

"And that's what should have happened on this occasion. But primarily they're there to look at the footage and form an opinion. Is the on-field decision clearly wrong in their professional judgement? We would have preferred such an intervention in this case."

Owen: "Players make mistakes. Goalkeepers, referees, everyone makes mistakes. But on the referee's side of things, how can you prevent things like this happening in the future? Or do people just have to accept that mistakes will be made? ".

Webb remarked: "Yeah, the game is played by human beings, it's officiated by human beings. And obviously our job is to try to ensure that we have a positive impact on the game by identifying correct decisions on the field. This wasn't one."

"And then when that doesn't happen, the VAR consistently recognises when an error has happened on the field and steps in."

"But of course they're humans making judgements as well so we always are trying to reduce the number of errors that we make. We get together on a regular basis more than ever before with our VARs to train. We share loads of information online."

"We give guidance to the officials, we share discussions around why something didn't work out in the way that it should. And then ultimately we share that final information to try to ensure that the learning is taken out of every situation and, year on year, reduce those number of errors to the minimal amount that we can."

On Forest's two penalty appeals in the first half, both involving Everton defender Young, Webb expressed satisfaction with how the situations were handled.

Webb continued: "The first two we felt were really subjective calls. The first one involving some contact from Ashley Young on Gio Reyna. 'There was contact. The referee saw that but didn't feel it was impactful enough to penalise.

"We've set quite a high threshold for penalising contact all over the field really, but also in the penalty area. It's what the game has asked us to do. Not every single contact is a foul and this was one where there was quite minimal contact, consistent with other situations that we've waved away this season.

"The VAR quite rightly checked that one. The second one was a handball penalty situation. Ashley Young involved again.

"The ball hits his arm. He's moving as he tries to close a shot down from short distance and the referee deemed that the arm was in a natural position and the VAR check completed that one as well - quite understandably, in this subjective zone of handball. So we thought that both of those situations were in line with our expectations."