Video Assistant Referee (VAR) causes controversy in the Premier League every week but how are decisions made and are they right?
After each weekend we take a look at the most notable incidents and examine the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.
– VAR’s wildest moments: Alisson’s two red cards in one game
– How VAR has impacted every Premier League club
– VAR in the Premier League: Ultimate Guide
Possible disallowed goal: Trossard handball
What happened: Brighton & Hove Albion were already 3-0 up when Manchester United’s Diogo Dalot tried to clear the ball off the line but was only able to kick it into Leandro Trossard, who rebounded into the goal.
VAR decision: No handball, goal stands.
VAR Review: There is no doubt that the declassification hit Trossard hard on the chest. The question was whether the ball would then graze his arm before going into the goal.
The VAR, Chris Kavanagh, watched replays of the goal from different angles but there was no definitive proof the ball had hit Trossard’s arm. If this was the case then the goal must be disallowed as you cannot score with your arm/hand even if the contact was accidental.
In these situations, the VAR looks for a replay that shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the ball hit the arm and the decision on the field was wrong. There was no angle showing any hint of handball so the VAR was right to allow the goal.
It was the perfect comparison in Sunday’s game when Norwich City’s Sam Byram thought he had scored against West Ham United.
However, Byram tapped the ball with his arm before scoring. Unlike Trossard, this was clear from three different camera angles, leaving VAR, Graham Scott, with a simple task of telling the referee not to award the goal.
VAR Overturn: Red card for Ayling
What happened: Arsenal were already 2-0 up when Luke Ayling tried to attack Gabriel Martinelli at the corner flag. The Leeds United player went in with both feet off the ground but referee Chris Kavanagh was only shown a yellow card.
VAR decision: The VAR, John Brooks, advised the referee to upgrade the yellow card to a red.
VAR Review: The only real surprise is that it took so long for the VAR to recommend the red card and even then it took the referee a longer look at the monitor before changing his decision to a red card.
Ayling had both feet off the ground and led into the challenge with studs visible. It was a worse tackle than Granit Xhaka’s against Manchester City earlier in the season, although that red card was shown by the referee rather than after a VAR check.
The only thing that could have saved Ayling was that the challenge wasn’t high, so Kavanagh just cautioned him at first. But the nature of the challenge, getting both feet off the ground, was a clear case of serious foul play endangering an opponent’s safety.
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Possible red card: Fabinho via Son
What happened: In the 80th minute of the game, Fabinho challenged Son Heung-Min heavily and caught Spurs trying to capture the ball with his elbow forward. Fabinho was shown a yellow card.
VAR decision: No red card, a warning was deemed sufficient.
VAR Review: The incident was quickly looked at by VAR Darren England but he ruled that a yellow card was a reasonable decision by the referee.
This is the key difference between the Ayling and Fabinho incidents. One of the most important considerations of the VAR is whether the card shown by the referee is a wrong decision within the meaning of the Laws of the Game. Caution is certainly required in the Fabinho case; With Ayling, the nature of the tackle made it difficult to argue against a red card.
Perhaps the bigger problem was that referee Michael Oliver directed the game with a degree of forbearance. It meant Fabinho avoided a series of fouls that could have earned him a booking on another day – so when he committed that foul on Son it could have been a second yellow card and a sending off.
However, that doesn’t change how a VAR rates a challenge when a player isn’t already on a map.
There’s no doubt Fabinho deserved a caution, but there was no throwing action with his arm to generate power or an element of brutality. The 28-year-old also lacked a clenched fist, which the referee could use to tell if there was intent to use force.
VAR Overturn: Loftus-Cheek’s goal is disallowed for offside
What happened: The result was goalless as Ruben Loftus-Cheek thought he had struck from close range.
VAR decision: Jarred Gillett correctly disallowed the goal for offside after a very lengthy VAR review.
VAR Review: The problem wasn’t the final decision, but the time it took to make it and the process Gillett went through. The first possible offside against Antonio Rüdiger was checked for a long time after the post shot.
Then the VAR had to determine if Romelu Lukaku or Leander Dendoncker touched the ball before running to Loftus-Cheek to score. If played by Lukaku, it was a clear offside. If Dendoncker, then the Chelsea goalscorer was not allowed to be sidelined.
Had Gillett initially focused on the offside against Loftus-Cheek, the recap would have gone much faster as there was no doubt that he was offside. It only had to be confirmed that the ball had been touched by a teammate.
VAR overthrow: Penalty for Chelsea
What happened: The goal remained goalless in the 52nd minute when Romelu Lukaku went down under a tackle from Romain Saiss. Referee Peter Bankes gave a goal kick when the ball went wide shortly afterwards.
VAR decision: Gillett reviewed the challenge and advised the referee it should be a penalty.
VAR Review: Saiss’ foul wasn’t clear at first, but the replay showed the defender catching Lukaku high on the leg. It was the right decision to miss the penalty, scored by Lukaku himself.
Information provided by the Premier League and PGMOL has been used in this story.