Premier League

VAR will not intervene for 'trivial' incidents next season, confirms referee chief

The use of VAR in the European Championship was praised compared to the Premier League last season which had some controversial moments

12:26pm on Tuesday 3rd August 2021
Martin Macdonald

Premier League officials are set to be more lenient in their use of VAR next season after referee chief Mike Riley insisted that "trivial" incidents will not be punished in the same fashion they were in 2020/21.

VAR was first brought into the Premier League for use in the 2019/20 season in order to review "clear and obvious errors" refereeing errors in goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity.

Two implementations of the Video Assistant Referee in particular have caused the most controversy, with offsides and with handballs inside the box.


Several goals were chopped off last season due to a tiny line being used to penalise attackers, while players were punished with a penalty if the ball touched their hand no matter how it was caused.

Riley, general manager of Professional Game Match Officials Limited, has promised changes.

"The toenails and noses that might have been offside last year won't be next season," said Riley.

"We will carry on following the same process as last year, so you'll apply the pixel lines, place the attacking line and defending line on top, and then the thicker broadcast lines. But where they overlap those, situations will now be deemed as onside."

VAR giving penalties

In the European Championship, one of the most controversial moments saw Raheem Sterling win a penalty in a match against Denmark in the semi-final.

There was indeed contact, but it was very, very minimal.

Referees have been given this as an example of fouls that should NOT be given in the Premier League in 2021/22.

"Contact on its own is only part of the what referees should look for," Riles explained.

What are the Premier League VAR changes for the 2021-22 season?Read More

"They should also ask themselves if the contact has a consequence, and then if the player used that contact to try and win a foul or a penalty.

"It's not sufficient just to say: 'Yes, there's contact.' I think, partly, we got into that frame of mind by the forensic analysis that went into VAR awards.

"If you've got clear contact that has a consequence, that's what you've got to penalise. If you've any doubt in those elements, you're less likely to be penalised.

"I think it moves the dial back towards where we were in a pre-VAR world. We don't want trivial things penalised."

For handballs, the following are set to be taken into account:

What is the hand or arm position in relation to body movement?

Is the body being made unnaturally bigger?

The use of VAR in the Euros received praise compared to the negativity surrounding the Premier League, but there were eight officials in each match at that tournament compared to three in the English top flight.

Riley went on to say that VAR will not be perfect for a few years, and has mentioned cricket and rugby as two other sports that had teething problems with the introduction of similar video reviews.

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