The Premier League and its referees’ organisation are still undecided over whether the introduction of video assistant referees (VARs) will involve the on-field referee consulting a pitchside replay screen to have the final say in all decisions.
The Professional Game Match Officials are working on the introduction of VARs in time for the start of next season and have already begun specialist training in which referees and assistants review periods of play and decisions in real-time situations. One of the major choices on the implementation is whether the VAR or the on-field referee has the final call.
The PGMO general manager, Mike Riley, wants the convention to remain that the on-field referee has the final say, which would involve him being alerted to an incident by the VAR and then heading to the side of the pitch to watch it being replayed before reaching a final decision. That way Riley believes the referee will retain authority.
Others feel that the best system is for the VAR to make the decision and relay that to the on-field referee over his headset. The school of thought argues that a referee watching an incident potentially surrounded by players and both managers would cause unnecessary flashpoints, which could be avoided by the VAR taking complete charge of the review process.
At the Fifa Club World Cup in December, the Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai awarded a penalty having come to the side of the pitch to review the incident on screen. The friendly between Spain and France in Paris last month featured a VAR who disallowed an offside goal correctly and simply relayed his decisions to the referee, Felix Zwayer, who implemented it without a review.
The likelihood is that the technology to facilitate both approaches to decision-making will be licensed by the rule-making body, the International Football Association Board, with the Premier League eventually having to choose between the two. The FA Cup and the EFL Cup could both have VARs next season, with the World Cup in Russia next summer following suit.