Liverpool Football Club has issued a stern call for a comprehensive review of VAR procedures following a glaring error by video assistant referees (VAR) during their 2-1 defeat against Tottenham. In a scathing statement, Liverpool expressed their concerns about the impact of VAR errors on sporting integrity and vowed to explore all available options.
The controversy arose when Luis Díaz’s 34th-minute goal was disallowed for offside, despite clear evidence that he was onside. Still images of the incident revealed that Cristian Romero had played Díaz onside, and the incorrect decision ultimately affected the outcome of the match, with Liverpool losing 2-1 while playing with only nine men.
The blame for the error was laid at the feet of VAR officials Darren England and Dan Cook, who failed to intervene after the incorrect offside call. Instead of correcting the on-field decision, England erroneously believed the goal had been awarded by the referee and called “check complete.”
In response, Liverpool’s statement acknowledged the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) admission of their failures, emphasizing the failure to uphold the correct application of the laws of the game. Liverpool asserted that the pressures faced by match officials should be alleviated, not exacerbated, by VAR. They criticized the insufficient time afforded to make the correct decision and the lack of subsequent intervention.
Furthermore, Liverpool deemed the characterization of such failings as “significant human error” to be unacceptable. They called for a thorough review with full transparency to ensure future decision-making reliability and process improvements, emphasizing the importance of preventing similar situations from occurring again.
Due to this controversy, both officials were removed from their duties in subsequent matches; England from fourth-official duties during Nottingham Forest’s match against Brentford and Cook from assistant referee duties during Fulham’s clash against Chelsea respectively.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp refrained from attributing any malice to those responsible for the VAR error, noting instead that “whoever made the decision didn’t do it on purpose”. Additionally, he acknowledged its unusually short decision-making process.
It was revealed that England and Cook had officiated a match in the United Arab Emirates just a day before the Liverpool-Tottenham fixture. PGMOL defended this, stating it was a fairly routine schedule, akin to referees participating in midweek Champions League matches.
This incident adds to the challenges faced by PGMOL and its VAR implementation this season. The opening weekend of the season witnessed a contentious decision that went against Wolves at Manchester United, resulting in several officials being dropped from subsequent matches.
Howard Webb, the chief refereeing officer of PGMOL, has emphasized the need for referee accountability to enhance transparency and understanding within the organization. Webb promptly contacted Liverpool following their defeat, but this latest error will undoubtedly test the credibility of all parties involved.
Gary Neville, former footballer and pundit, described Diaz’s decision as “unbelievable”, emphasizing its significance for Liverpool FC. However, their critics have raised issues over officials’ travel schedule: they had an eight-hour flight only 24 hours prior to kick-off of their match!
In light of these developments, Liverpool’s call for a comprehensive review of VAR procedures resonates with the broader debate surrounding the technology’s role in modern football.