A top Premier League chief has proclaimed that 96% of refereeing decisions this season have been correct. Tony Scholes, the division’s Chief Football Officer, made the comments during a recent interview with Sky Sports.
Scholes insisted that VAR has helped boost this officiating accuracy in recent years. He claimed that referees were only right about 82% of the time before VAR was introduced.
“VAR is, and remains, a very effective tool in supporting the match officials on the pitch,” Scholes told the news outlet.
The statistics regarding VAR come from the opinions of the Key Match Incidents panel (KMI). Premier League officials created the panel two years ago by appointing several former players, former coaches, and referees. This group reports their thoughts on big decisions during matches to the league and the Professional Match Game Officials Limited (PGMOL).
According to the panel, there have been 20 total VAR errors during the 2023/24 season. However, 17 (85%) of these mistakes, according to the Premier League, occurred when VAR officials failed to intervene in a refereeing mistake.
As far as the three remaining errors, one happened during a debacle involving Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. Liverpool winger Luis Diaz incorrectly had a goal chalked off in the match due to miscommunication in the VAR room. The remaining two mishaps were described as “subjective errors” by officials. This involved wrongly disallowing a Burnley goal against Nottingham Forest and Arsenal not receiving a penalty kick against Manchester United in September.
Executive also admits league needs VAR improvement
While Scholes mostly applauded the use of VAR in the Premier League, he also admitted that there needs to be changes. Scholes specifically picked out two main issues with the implementation of VAR. First of all, Scholes believes reviews are taking too long in league games.
“We are doing too many checks, we’re taking too long in doing them as well,” stated Scholes. “It’s to a degree understandable, given the level of scrutiny these guys are under. But the reviews are taking too long and it’s affecting the flow of the game and we’re extremely aware of that and the need to improve that speed while always maintaining the accuracy.”
Secondly, the experience for match-going fans inside stadiums is currently subpar. “It’s nowhere near good enough,” continued the Premier League official. “We know it’s not. It affects supporters’ enjoyment of the game, and we know it needs to change.”
Premier League VAR and general refereeing causes too many issues
While Scholes shifts focus on minor tweaks to the technical aspects of VAR, many fans disagree with his thoughts regarding correct calls in the league. He also swept the various other reported VAR errors under the rug. Failing to intervene is just as bad as making a wrong decision.
Howard Webb, PGMOL’s technical director, has been forced to directly apologize to several clubs in recent months. This occurred after a refereeing blunder blocked Wolves a penalty shot late in their matchup with Manchester United in August. A similar incident also affected Arsenal two months later.
Webb also later sent apologies to Forest boss Nuno Espirito Santo and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola for ref mistakes as well. The former referee also later admitted that Liverpool should have had a penalty during a recent matchup with the Gunners.
Another incident in Newcastle‘s controversial victory against Arsenal in November also received plenty of attention. While Scholes is correct that VAR delays are hurting the game, the state of refereeing in the Premier League is also still subpar. And this cannot happen in the biggest and most popular soccer league in the world.