Wolves hit back as Liverpool and Man Utd move to kill off bid to scrap VAR

Referee Michael Salisbury checks the VAR monitor during Brighton's match at home to Chelsea on Wednesday

Wolves have warned that the Premier League could be “irrevocably damaged” if clubs do not ditch VAR, urging rivals to listen to their fans.

As the league’s heavyweights including Liverpool and Manchester United moved to kill off Wolves’ bid to scrap the controversial system, the club’s chairman Jeff Shi has hit back by insisting that top-flight football’s reputation is at stake.

In an exclusive column for The Telegraph, Shi has outlined his concerns by claiming that VAR has introduced “a level of interference that is at odds with the spirit of our game”.

Shi also claims:

  • VAR is threatening to permanently damage the Premier League brand

  • Fans are becoming “increasingly disengaged” because of VAR’s negative impact

  • Rival clubs must consider abandoning VAR to preserve the “integrity and magic” of the Premier League

Jeff Shi
Wolves chairman Jeff Shi has spoken out

Yet United manager Erik ten Hag has insisted there is “no way back” in abolishing VAR, while Liverpool are also understood to be supporting its continued use.

Ten Hag said: “I don’t think there is a way back. In principle it makes football more fair, but there are some problems, and I think we have to find the solutions to these problems, we have to make improvements.”

However, Premier League clubs face a fan revolt unless supporters are given a say over Wolves’ shock proposal ahead of a landmark vote on the issue.

It was fan power that last month saw Sweden, where top clubs are majority supporter owned, become the first country to refuse to adopt VAR.

Leading supporter groups have united to demand they are consulted about the resolution Wolves have forced the world’s richest league to include on the agenda at its annual general meeting (AGM) next month.

Rival teams have already told Telegraph Sport they will vote against the resolution but they are now being warned not to do so without first consulting their own fan groups.

Manchester United Supporters Trust spokesman Chris Rumfitt told Telegraph Sport: “VAR is widely disliked, especially amongst match-going fans who are the biggest losers from all the problems it creates. MUST is a democratic organisation and will be polling supporters to get their views. It is vital that Manchester United, and all clubs, listen to their supporters before they cast their vote on 6 June.”

Those sentiments were echoed by the chair of Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly, Paul Khan, the Arsenal Supporters Trust’s Tim Payton and Manchester City Supporters Club general secretary Kevin Parker.

The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) added: “The FSA would encourage all clubs to engage with their supporters’ groups on important issues which affect the matchday experience – and VAR is certainly one of those. Credit to Wolves for doing so and it’d be great to see other clubs follow that lead ahead of June’s meeting.”

Wolves’s announcement prompted some supporters groups to poll their members on whether they wanted VAR scrapped, with the vast majority stating they did.

That included an FSA poll on X which found more than three-quarters of fans backed Wolves’s position, up from around two-thirds who were against VAR in its most recent National Supporters Survey published last June.

In a poll conducted by Telegraph Sport, more than 75 per cent of more than 3,000 readers had said scrapping VAR was a good idea by Thursday evening.

However, what began on Wednesday as a one-club crusade for the Premier League to ditch VAR has so far failed to generate enough support from the division’s other 19 sides in order for it to succeed.

Wolves would need another 13 teams to back a resolution that has forced the Premier League to agree to ballot its members at its AGM.

But not one of 10 of clubs who agreed to speak to Telegraph Sport on condition of anonymity said they would vote to scrap VAR, with some either confirming or strongly indicating they would oppose such a move.

A senior figure at one team said there was “no chance at all” of clubs ditching VAR and that “all the other 19” could vote against the Wolves proposal in a show of unity.

However, many clubs did say they wanted to see VAR improved following the litany of blunders and controversies since its introduction that saw Wolves’s patience finally snap.

The Midlands side could now find themselves coming under pressure to withdraw their resolution forcing a vote of teams, potentially in exchange for a full and frank discussion about further changes to how VAR operates in the Premier League.

Clubs have already unanimously voted for the introduction of semi-automated offside in the competition next season, which should help tackle one of the biggest complaints about the system – that decisions take too long to reach.

Referees should also be able to explain VAR decisions to match-going fans as part of a trial begun at last year’s Women’s World Cup.

Howard Webb, the head of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, wants to go further by having footage of such decisions shown on big screens in stadiums.

But this is controversially not permitted under the Laws of the Game, which the International Football Association Board has repeatedly refused to change.