June 18 – The Premier League resumed Wednesday night after being struck down by Covid-19, but what on earth happened to VAR?
After 100 days the world’s most watched league returned but was marred by an embarrassing gaffe that could have a significant impact on the final table after Europe-chasing Sheffield United were denied a clear goal in the opening game of the resumption behind closed doors at relegation-threatened Aston Villa.
With countries all over the world tuning into the game – as well as Manchester City’s 3-0 trouncing of Arsenal that followed – Hawk-Eye, operators of the goalline technology system apologised “unreservedly” for failing to cite Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland carrying the ball back over his own line just before halftime.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said after the game.
“I said it before that I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re one of the first teams to suffer from a VAR decision – and we’ve possibly suffered from the biggest VAR decision in the history of the Premier League.”
Referee Michael Oliver looked to indicate that goalline technology had not verified the ball had crossed the line, despite what appeared to be clear evidence on TV replays.
Hawk-Eye explained the seven cameras in the stands around the goal area were obstructed by the keeper, defender and goalpost.
“This level of occlusion has never been seen before in over 9,000 matches that the Hawk-Eye Goal Line Technology system has been in operation,” the company said.
There was also no intervention from the Video Assistant Referee despite TV viewers being able to see the ball had clearly crossed the line.
“Under the IFAB protocol, the VAR is able to check goal situations, however due to the fact that the on-field match officials did not receive a signal, and the unique nature of that, the VAR did not intervene,” the PGMO, body responsible for match officials in English professional football, said in a separate explanation.
The 0-0 scoreline could have huge consequences for the season, keeping Villa up and preventing United getting into Europa League.
But as serious as the mistake may prove to be, far more poignant was the powerful image of all 22 players and referee taking a knee for ‘Black Lives Matter’ before kick-off.
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