I have warned through several media channels that the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will not be a smooth process.
It is after all an IFAB experiment to determine how and when it will be operated in senior football competitions.
FA Cup replay Chelsea v Norwich City saw Graham Scott in charge supported by VAR Mike Jones.
In the limited number of games where VAR has been used it has proved a guarded success, used sparingly it has worked well, however in this FA Cup replay Chelsea’s Willian in possession of the ball was brought down to the ground by a deliberate trip inside the penalty area.
The referee was well positioned but instead of pointing to the penalty mark reached for his pocket and produced a yellow card for simulation.
Willian was shocked and protested, here was the opportunity for the Video Assistant Referee to interrogate the video replays and inform the referee that he had made a serious error of judgment.
I was sat in my armchair expecting the referee to be invited to view the video screens at the side of the touchline. Had he done so he would have seen the clear trip committed by a Norwich City player on his opponent.
He would then have informed the occupants of the technical area and the players through the fourth official that he was rescinding the yellow card and awarding a penalty kick.
He did not and sadly Graham Scott who was having a good game was put to the test thanks to the incorrect non involvement by the VAR.
VAR had let the referee down.
Not the end of the world, the decision thankfully did not impact the game with Chelsea going through to the next round
The IFAB 12 principles of operation, which underpin the experiment, are as follows
Video technology will only be used to correct CLEAR ERRORS and for MISSED SERIOUS INCIDENTS in pre- defined match-changing decisions :goal, penalty/no penalty, direct red card and if the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player.
The final decision will always be taken by the referee
Video Assistant Referees (VARs) are match officials and any information the VARs provide to the referee will be treated by the referee in the same way as information received from an assistant referee, additional assistant referee or the fourth official
The referee must always make a decision regardless of the existence of VARs i.e. the referee is not permitted to give ‘no decision’ and refer the situation to the VAR, If the referee decides not to stop play for an alleged offence, the decision (to allow play to continue) can be reviewed. On rare occasions, when it is unclear whether a penalised cautionable offence is a sending off, or who should receive the sanction, the referee might consult the VAR.
The original decision given by the referee will not be changed unless the video review clearly shows that the decision was clearly wrong.
Only the referee can initiate a review; the VAR (and the other match officials) can only recommend a review to the referee,
Whatever the review process, there is no time pressure to review the decision quickly as accuracy is more important than speed.
The players and team officials must not surround the referee or attempt to influence if a decisions reviewed, the review process or the final decision. A player who uses the ‘review signal’ will be cautioned
The referee shoulders far as possible, remain ‘visible’ during the review process to ensure transparency.
If play continues after an incident which is then reviewed, any disciplinary action taken/required during the post-incident period is not cancelled, even if the original decision is changed (except for caution/send-off for stopping a promising attack or DOGSO.
The maximum period before an incident that can be reviewed and the maximum period after an incident can take place is defined
As far as possible, the protocols conform to the principles and philosophy of the laws of the game
However I have been made aware by one of my American contacts of a communication that he has recently received.
The VAR can ask the referee to upgrade a yellow card to a red card or ask the referee to view the challenge himself and make his own decision.
The FA do not upgrade yellow cards to red cards, it is done during the game.
So Graham Scott, I support fully your action to caution two other players in this game for simulation.
In this game you were let down by the VAR, but do not worry it is still an experiment and hopefully match officials will learn from these odd difficulties.