The refereeing body, Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), have released another statement surrounding what happened for the disallowed Luis Diaz goal for Liverpool in their defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League at the weekend.
Clarifying that a review has taken place, PGMOL also released a further statement along with the audio between match officials from that fixture, saying that “key learnings and immediate actions taken” had been sent on to the Anfield club and the rest of the Premier League, which features an improved communication protocol and double-checking outcomes between the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and the assistant of the same role.
Additionally, the FA along with the refs’ body has opted to “review the policy” of allowing officials to take charge of fixtures outside of their usual appointed domestic and international or intercontinental ones, after further criticism as it emerged Simon Hooper and his team - those involved in the Tottenham vs Liverpool match - were on duty in a UAE-based fixture just 48 hours earlier.
During the released audio file, available here, the exchange between officials can be heard as they follow the play through to its culmination - Diaz scoring - and then arranging the 2D line to check his position.
Once the line is touching the defender’s boot and shows Luis Diaz onside by a significant distance, VAR Darren England says out loud: “And stop, check complete, check complete. That’s fine, perfect.” The audio and video then show the match resuming, until the Replay Operator steps in to say “Wait, the on-field decision was offside.” He then questions if “Daz” - Darren England - is “happy” with the outcome of play continuing, with England not appearing to immediately grasp the situation before swearing when he realises the magnitude of his error.
The discussion continues before England says he “can’t do anything” as the match has already resumed.
In full, the initial statement from PGMOL explaining what happened for Diaz’s goal being disallowed reads:
"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.”
The second statement was regarding the investigation into what went wrong and what PGMOL have opted to do differently following the incident, the latest in a series of high-profile errors which have seen a succession of teams apologised for.
Key among them are an extra step in ensuring decisions are checked before being communicated to the on-pitch official and reinforcing to all involved personnel that accuracy remains the overriding factor of importance.
“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.
“PGMOL and The FA have also agreed to review the policy to allow match officials to officiate matches outside of FIFA or UEFA appointments.”
Additionally, it was confirmed that VAR and AVAR were removed from their remaining fixtures across the weekend and will again not be on the slate of Premier League matches for the upcoming round of games.
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