A former Premier League referee and PGMOL chief has said that VAR has led to current top-flight officials becoming ‘lazy’ and ‘indecisive’, and has called for radical changes as to how the technology is operated.
Keith Hackett is among numerous neutral observers to have been appalled by the farcical situation which led to Luis Diaz having a perfectly legitimate goal ruled offside in Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham on Saturday, a blunder which ultimately had a decisive bearing on the final result.
On Sunday, the 79-year-old posted on X: “I do not believe that VAR has delivered on what it promised. That was to be improved accuracy in the decision making process. Referees have become lazy, indecisive, reactive not pro-active. Cards been flashed reducing their power as a deterrent. VAR is not working.”
He expanded on that in a column for The Telegraph on Monday, saying that ‘the current system needs a process that can be followed by VAR specialists’ and ‘not part-timers who flip between refereeing on the field and then reviewing decisions at Stockley Park’.
Hackett also believes that the Premier League were wrong not to implement the semi-automated offside system which is now used in UEFA competitions, and he even stated that ‘we will end up very soon in situations where teams like Liverpool will have concrete grounds to call for matches to be replayed in the event of an injustice’.
As a former referee who was so highly regarded that he was allowed to stay on past the mandatory retirement age for the profession, Hackett must be despairing at the current standard of officiating in the Premier League.
As he says, VAR was supposed to eradicate the spate of blatant errors we see on a weekly basis in the top flight. Instead, on-field officials abdicate all too easily to their peers in Stockley Park, who let their egos run wild and make the most of their opportunity to be in the spotlight and influence matches.
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The introduction of semi-automated offsides should eliminate shambolic situations like the one which thwarted Diaz and Liverpool on Saturday, but referees and their assistants still need to do their jobs better, whether that’s on the pitch or in the VAR booth.
Even when Howard Webb belatedly made public some of the conversations between officials on-field and in Stockley Park, the stench of pals looking after each other reeked from the dialogue which was exchanged.
Hackett’s suggestion of a completely neutral and independent assessor sitting in on VAR could be worth considering. It certainly seems like a preferable alternative to the status quo of the refereeing clique consistently making an inexcusable mess of technology which is intended to bolster rather than shatter the credibility of their profession.
Frankly, they simply need to do better.