The governing body for England’s referees has admitted “standards fell short of expectations” after releasing audio of the VAR discussion that led to a Luis Díaz goal for Liverpool being incorrectly ruled out for offside.
The audio was released in full on the Premier League website, along with a full account of what went wrong and a lengthy statement from the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) after a thorough review was completed.
The VAR Darren England incorrectly thought the on-field decision was “goal.” While he quickly identified that Díaz was onside, he told the referee “check complete” — which mistakenly told the on-field team the offside flag was correct.
PGMOL and the Football Association also said they would review allowing referees to take charge of games in foreign leagues in midweek, after England was part of a team of English officials who took charge of a game in the United Arab Emirates just 28 hours before the game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
A statement issued by the referees’ body read: “PGMOL can confirm that we have carried out a review into the circumstances which led to the Luis Diaz goal being incorrectly disallowed for offside in the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC.
“We recognise standards fell short of expectations and acknowledged the error to Liverpool immediately after the conclusion of the fixture.
“A detailed report, including the key learnings and immediate actions taken, alongside the audio between the on-field officials and VAR team has been submitted to the Premier League, who have shared it with Liverpool FC and subsequently all other Premier League Clubs.
“The review of the on-field and VAR decision-making processes and application of the decision-making principles has identified the following key learnings to mitigate against the risk of a future error:
– Guidance to Video Match Officials has always emphasised the need for efficiency, but never at the expense of accuracy. This principle will be clearly reiterated.
– A new VAR communication protocol will be developed to enhance the clarity of communication between the referee and the VAR team in relation to on-field decisions.
– As an additional step to the process, the VAR will confirm the outcome of the VAR check process with the AVAR before confirming the final decision to the on-field officials.
“PGMOL are committed to enhancing VAR performance through a new training programme which started this season and focuses on process and best practice for all VARs, AVARs and Replay Operators in their specific roles. While we have a number of FIFA-recognised VARs, work is ongoing to create a dedicated pool of VAR specialists.
“The VAR and AVAR in question were removed from their remaining fixtures in Match Round 7 in the Premier League and have not been included in the appointments for Match Round 8 this weekend.
“PGMOL and The FA have also agreed to review the policy to allow match officials to officiate matches outside of FIFA or UEFA appointments.”
PGMOL also provided a full explanation of what happened:
“As stated shortly after the full-time whistle on Saturday evening, we acknowledged in a statement that a significant human error had occurred during the aforementioned match, which we recognise should have resulted in a goal being awarded through VAR intervention.
“As with all goal situations, the VAR team checked every aspect of the goal. After the on-field officials had disallowed the goal for offside, the checking phase and process started and was carried out correctly by the VAR. The kick-point selection was accurate and the use of a single 2D line on the foot of the second rear-most defender was also correctly positioned.
“The image created showed that Luis Diaz was clearly onside, without the need for the insertion of a second line. In a lapse of concentration and loss of focus in that moment, the VAR lost sight of the on field decision and he incorrectly communicated “check complete”, therefore inadvertently confirming the on-field decision. He did this without any dialogue with the AVAR [Assistant VAR].
“The match then restarted immediately. After a few seconds, the Replay Operator and then the AVAR queried the check-complete outcome with the VAR and asked him to review the image that had been created, pointing out that the original on-field decision had been offside, but this was not communicated to the on-field team at any point during the match.
“The VAR team then gave consideration as to whether the game could be stopped at that point, however the VAR and AVAR concluded that the VAR protocol within the Laws of the Game would not permit that to happen, and they decided intervention was not possible as play had restarted.
“The audio between the on-field team of match officials and the VAR team is below.
“PGMOL has carried out a review into the circumstances which led to this incorrect outcome and the subsequent learnings will be implemented to mitigate the risk of errors occurring in the future.”