For a few weeks, it looked like they had succeeded. Fifteen days after the start of the new season, there had barely been a whisper of complaint against the referees or their video assistants. Pressed to let the game unfold, all available evidence from the Premier League suggested the referees were doing just that.
Even the lines used to determine offside had been revolutionized (translation: made slightly thicker) in order to put an end to ridiculous decisions determined by dishonest fingernails and armpits. “Effectively we gave up 20 goals in the game which were ruled offside last season,” said Mike Riley, chief referees, who declined to say how many of them Chelsea striker Timo Werner would get it.
Manchester United were the first beneficiaries of the largesse from Professional Game Match Officials Limited, with Bruno Fernandes scoring a goal against Leeds which would almost certainly have been scored last season. Elsewhere on a Premier League opening weekend where VAR’s intervention was noticeably absent, only Brighton and Newcastle had serious grounds for complaint.
At Turf Moor, a blatant James Tarkowski pushed Neal Maupay moments before the Burnley defender steered his team to an early lead should have been ruled out by VAR but was not. Meanwhile, at St James’ Park, Newcastle’s Jacob Murphy was understandably aggrieved that he was not given a Martin Atkinson penalty overturned by David Coote in the Stockley Park video bunker.
Atkinson once again found himself the center of unwanted attention when he chose not to penalize – this man again – Tarkowski for a fake challenge on Richarlison of Everton that should have prompted the defender’s marching orders. Burnley in Merseyside. On this occasion, it was Tim Wood who chose not to undo one of the clearest and most obvious mistakes of the first four rounds of this season’s top-flight matches.
Nonetheless, after 40 games punctuated by just over a handful of outrageously blatant decisions by the authorities, the consensus among managers, players, pundits and 95% of fans surveyed by the Football Supporters’ Association who have said VAR made their football experience less enjoyable. in 2021, it is because we were perhaps a little hasty in our condemnation of a technological whistle which was always going to take time to find its marks.
While Euro 2020 was not without minor refereeing controversies, there were no match definition errors and the 19 sets of UEFA-nominated match officials were praised for a collective lack of pedantry that allowed the matches to unfold. In the first month of the new Premier League season, PGMOL’s concerted efforts to embrace this ‘lighter touch’ policy appeared to bear fruit.
Manchester United then traveled to London to face West Ham. The penultimate game of a weekend in which Stuart Attwell was pilloried for his disconcerting decision to award Brighton a penalty against Leicester when it was fairly obvious to everyone but him and his video assistant Graham Scott that a free kick should have gone the other way, United’s victory at London Stadium provided the first real opportunity for various retired referees who ply their trade undermining former colleagues of put your foot in the stirrup.
Not for the first or second time this season, it was Atkinson who was the subject of their sad disapproval. In a game won by Manchester United in large part thanks to Mark Noble’s missed penalty moments after being called off the bench, Atkinson committed a series of clear, obvious and borderline comedic blunders, only one of which was rectified by his VAR, Darren England.
“What was Martin Atkinson thinking? wrote Richard Keys, now a presenter at beIn Sports, in a pompous controversy calling for the referee’s immediate impeachment. “What did he not see when Ronaldo was twice fouled in the box. Not once – twice. We will never know, of course, as the PGMOL will ensure that their apologists – MM. has been said. “
Keys has been in Qatar for too long if he thinks this is the way it works, given the groans and backstabbing that are apparently so prevalent among the corps of English referees past and present. “It’s a strange game, refereeing,” reflected Mark Clattenburg at Athletic. “We are largely unpopular with the outside world and plagued by internal fights and groans inside.” Seemingly oblivious to any irony, the former senior official has continued to let go of many former colleagues, reserving the bulk of his considerable anger for Atkinson, a man who has had a scorching few weeks and who can’t seem to get it right. for doing wrong.
Here to stay but a work in progress that is slowly improving, video refereeing will be a source of continued controversy and occasional fury, with the weekly Twitter thread in which dedicated VAR expert and ESPN editor Dale Johnson scrutinizes the decisions of the Now is essential reading for anyone with even a fleeting interest in accidental handballs, attacking phases and why Leeds weren’t penalized for Watford center-back William Troost-Ekong’s decidedly agricultural challenge against Daniel James last weekend.
In a world where televised discussions before, during and after Premier League matches invariably focus more on the decisions of the referees than on actual football, fans’ anger at the real or perceived injustices of the officials on the pitch and their officials. Monitor assistants will naturally fester. The inevitable consequence will be even more control: rinse, recycle, repeat. – Guardian