VAR is where we expected it to be – Swarbrick

Referees’ chief Mike Riley has told Premier League clubs that “improvement is required” with the video assistant referee system.

The technology has caused frustration and controversy since its introduction at the start of the season.

At a meeting on Thursday, Riley gave a full appraisal of VAR with clubs discussing their “grave concerns”.

The Premier League has promised to improve VAR’s consistency and speed and increase communication with fans.

The league will also lead a consultation with “fans and other relevant stakeholders” on the technology.

Riley spoke for just under two hours at what was described as a fractious four-and-a-half-hour meeting before it was decided no substantive changes would be made this season for fear it would affect the integrity of the competition.

“The Premier League and Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) are committed to improving the consistency of decisions, speeding up processes and increasing communication to fans,” the league said in a statement.

“There is not going to be any significant change this season,” West Ham co-chairman David Gold said after the meeting.

“There was a lot of debate but this is a brand new system, so we just have to be a bit more patient. What I can say is that VAR is alive and kicking.”

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow added: “Clubs have got grave concerns but so has everybody in the room. We’ve had a very robust discussion.

“The message has got through to the league and to the referees’ association that fans are unhappy, and many stakeholders in the game think we have to do a whole lot better.

“I expect to see real improvements in the speed of decisions, consistency of which is what everybody craves, and I think above all else for those of us in the stadia we want much better communication about what’s going on before, during and after.

“I think if we get those three ingredients then things will look a whole lot better in a few months’ time.”

The league has brought in VAR this season to decide on goals, penalties, red cards and offside decisions.

But a number of high-profile incidents have been criticised, with inconsistencies in decision-making and the length of time it takes to give a verdict.

Speaking earlier this week, the Premier League referees’ lead on VAR Neil Swarbrick told BBC Sport he would rate the introduction of the technology as a seven out of 10 so far.

Criticism of VAR have included the lack of communication with fans and referees not using pitchside monitors.

In response, the Premier League has said there will be increased information made available to fans at the stadium and the TV audience to explain in more detail what is being checked.

It also reemphasised that pitchside monitors would be “reserved for unseen incidents or when information from the VAR is outside the expectation range of the referee”.

“Ensuring the pace and tempo of Premier League football remains an important focus for clubs,” the league added.

It added: “Research will now take place with fans, and other relevant stakeholders, to understand their views on how the application of VAR could be best improved.”

Whilst VAR took up the majority of time at today’s meeting, Prince William also spoke for around half an hour about his football-related mental health Heads Up campaign, which is being run by the Heads Together charity.

In addition, a decision on the 2020 summer transfer window was deferred until the clubs’ next meeting in February.

There was also talk about 2022, when the seasons must shift to accommodate a winter World Cup in Qatar, although this is described as a work in progress.

Analysis

Simon Stone, BBC Sport

There is no point pretending the Premier League clubs are happy with VAR.

Some are, others are absolutely not.

Mostly it comes down to which clubs have been affected the most negatively by the various controversies that have taken place.

One thing they are agreed on, though: It is far too early to start talking about ditching the whole thing.

Instead, whatever resources are necessary to improve the situation will be committed.

That means Mike Riley and his team working better and Hawk-Eye being used more effectively.

Clubs realise fans in the stadium are deeply unhappy and are determined to try and bring greater clarity to the situation.

The Premier League wants greater consistency, quicker decisions and better communication.

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