VAR must challenge on-field referees more – Webb

Video assistant referees have been asked to be more proactive in challenging officials following a series of controversial decisions.

This includes Wolves’ Hwang Hee-chan being incorrectly penalised for a foul on Newcastle’s Fabian Schar during their 2-2 draw.

Premier League refereeing chief Howard Webb said VAR should have intervened.

“We are asking VARs to have a look and if they don’t like the decision, ask the referee what they saw,” said Webb.

With the game at 1-1 in first-half stoppage time, on-field referee Anthony Taylor awarded a spot-kick when Hwang challenged Schar for the ball in the Wolves area, but the Newcastle man appeared to kick the turf and looked to already be on his way down before any contact.

There was a lengthy VAR check but Taylor’s on-field decision stood, and Callum Wilson put Newcastle in front.

Wolves manager Gary O’Neil called the decision “scandalous” after the game.

O’Neil has been a frequent critic of refereeing and VAR this season, with several major decisions having gone against his side, including a penalty not awarded to Wolves away at Manchester United, and one wrongly given to Sheffield United in their last-gasp win over the Wolverhampton team.

Speaking on Match Officials Mic’d Up, a Premier League Productions programme which analyses VAR decisions from the last months, Webb admitted there had been an error and revealed video officials are now being urged to challenge on-field referees for more detailed reasoning when a decision is debatable.

“VAR shouldn’t re-referee the game and be reserved for clear situations when errors occur on the field. In this situation we see Hwang does not play the ball, it is played on to him by Schar and then there is contact between the players,” said Webb, head of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the group that officiates all Premier League matches.

“But what the referee has seen in real time is Hwang bring that leg through and make contact with Schar. If we see the replay, Hwang pulls his swing back a little bit, Schar brings his foot through and there’s contact.

“We feel this reaches the threshold for it being a clear and obvious error, even though there is contact.

“We are asking the VARs going forward with our instruction to have a look at it, see where the considerations sit and if they don’t like the decision on the field, ask the referee what they saw. And if it is significantly different to what is being shown on the video then recommend a review so the referee can come to the screen and look at it again for himself, the starting point where the VAR thinks there has been a clear error.

“In this situation this VAR didn’t quite get there and in our opinion should have done.”

Newcastle v Arsenal goal: Ball out of play, Joelinton push on Gabriel and offside

Earlier in the programme, the full audio from the VAR team was played for the build-up to Anthony Gordon’s winning goal for Newcastle against Arsenal.

Joe Willock tried to keep a wayward shot from Jacob Murphy in play near the corner flag before steadying himself and swinging in a cross. Joelinton beat Gabriel in the air before knocking the ball down into the path of Gordon.

With goalkeeper David Raya off his line, Gordon smashed into the net from close range, with Arsenal players appealing for offside.

VAR checked all three of those incidents, causing a delay to play restarting of around four minutes, before awarding the goal.

The VAR informed on-field referee Stuart Attwell there was “no conclusive evidence that that ball is out” before Willock crossed it in, and that “I don’t see a specific foul on Gabriel”.

“I see two hands on his back but I don’t see anything of a push that warrants him [Gabriel] flying forward like that,” he said.

The potential offside against Gordon was not given because “you don’t know where the ball is” when watching the replays, so “you’ve got no conclusive evidence of Gordon being ahead of the ball”.

Webb backed the decision of Attwell and the VAR team, and the process by which they reached it.

“This was an unusual moment with three aspects for the VAR to check,” he said

“The VAR decides that the evidence from the footage isn’t clear enough to intervene with a review for a clear error for the ball going out of play.

“Trying to identify when the ball leaves Joelinton is difficult to establish as the players were so close together, so again no conclusive evidence Gordon was offside.

“The VAR went through that diligently and identified no clear evidence to intervene so the process was correct.”

‘Excellent process’

Enzo Fernandez on the floor looking at his team mates during Spurs v Chelsea

The other decisions reviewed on Mic’d Up were Scott McTominay’s disallowed goal for Manchester United away at Fulham – ruled out as team-mate Harry Maguire had interfered with play from an offside position – and the red card awarded to Cristian Romero for Tottenham in their home loss against Chelsea.

Webb praised assistant VAR Sian Massey-Ellis for spotting that Maguire was offside when he attempted to make contact with the free-kick from which McTominay ultimately scored. Despite not making contact with the ball, Maguire had been active enough to ensure the goal was disallowed.

“What we see Harry Maguire do is attempt to play the ball, challenge the opposing player and impact his ability to play the ball,” said Webb. “But it needs a judgement so the VAR will ask the referee to go to the screen to make that subjective judgement.”

He also described the decision to send off Romero as being an “excellent process”, despite taking several minutes as VAR also determined whether Moises Caicedo’s goal, immediately prior to the defender’s foul on Enzo Fernandez, should be disallowed for an offside by Chelsea team-mate Nicolas Jackson.

“I know the check took some time but the VAR had to go through the process diligently and establish whether Jackson was in an offside position, and if he was, have a look at what happened just before that with Romero going in on Enzo, which is ultimately what the penalty and red card were awarded for,” Webb said.

Some Tottenham fans inside the ground were unhappy that Romero was sent off despite making contact with the ball before Enzo, however Webb dismissed this argument as the tackle itself was dangerous.

“Playing the ball itself does not allow you to follow through in this way,” he said.

“We don’t normally see contacts like this after ball has been played for a reason, and that’s because players take care to avoid this sort of thing happening.

“This clearly endangers the safety of Enzo with excessive force. We see in full speed and slow motion that it is a red card so is a good intervention.”

Everything you need to know about your Premier League team bannerBBC Sport banner footer