Premier League is stumbling over ‘clear and obvious’ VAR rulings, says IFAB chief

By Andrew Warshaw

December 31 – Football’s law-makers have hit back at criticism of VAR by English football experts, saying the problem lies directly at the feet of the Premier League for not applying the rule correctly.

Lukas Brud, general secretary of the International FA Board (IFAB), re-iterated that VAR  should only be used to correct “clear and obvious” errors and that it should not be relied upon to judge marginal offside calls that have caused so much bewilderment and consternation throughout the English season.

Last weekend the outrage over VAR reached new heights with a number of marginal offside decisions checked by VAR and goals ruled out for Wolves, Crystal Palace, Norwich, Brighton and Sheffield United.

Brud says IFAB will re-issue fresh guidance after its annual general meeting at the end of February next year.

“We will be communicating to all competitions that are using VAR some updates in the coming weeks, because we are observing some developments that are not particularly the way they should be,” said Brud.

“Clear and obvious still remains – it’s an important principle. There should not be a lot of time spent to find something marginal,” he told Britain’s Press Association.

“If something is not clear on the first sight, then it’s not obvious and it shouldn’t be considered. Looking at one camera angle is one thing but looking at 15, trying to find something that was potentially not even there, this was not the idea of the VAR principle. It should be clear and obvious.”

“In theory, 1mm offside is offside. But if a decision is taken that a player is not offside and the VAR is trying to identify through looking at five, six, seven, 10, 12 cameras whether or not it was offside, then the original decision should stand.”

Fans up and down the country have been calling on adjustments to be made but the Premier League insists it will not be changing the way VAR is being used this season as it would affect the “integrity of the competition”.

That means numerous replays will continued to be viewed for the tightest of decisions involving any part of the anatomy, which makes a mockery of the whole principle of VAR and more often than not hands the advantage to the defender.

Former England striker Gary Lineker wrote on Twitter in the wake of last weekend’s farce: “Once again, the technology can’t prove tight decisions. Two replays is the maximum you need to see if the referee’s assistants have badly erred. Get rid of the silly lines and dots. If it’s that tight go with on-field decision.”

It’s calculated that 22 goals in the Premier League have already been ruled out for marginal offside rulings this season even though VAR is only supposed to be used for “clear and obvious” officiating errors – which is exactly Brud’s point.

With fans now celebrating ‘non goals’ as much as goals, Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness, a highly respected former player and manager,  is among many calling for the offside rule itself to be changed so that only the position of a player’s feet count against him.

“What we’re doing is denying the people the enjoyment of goals,” he said. “What we should do is say that if any part of an attacker is in an onside position they can’t be given offside. We cannot go on like this. There’s too much frustration going on.”

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