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By Sonny Turner

Sub-edited by Sam Brady

With another round of Premier League fixtures having passed by, deficient and spineless refereeing was inevitably evident. And the blame, as always, fell incorrectly on VAR.

The referees started the weekend how they meant to go on, with an incomprehensible decision not to send off Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford for a reckless flying challenge on Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk, which saw the defender go off injured, with it believed to be a number of months before he will be fit to play again.

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With referee Michael Oliver failing to punish the dangerous challenge, it fell to VAR to administer the correct punishment. However, this is where blame and outrage are incorrectly administered. VAR is not a mechanical, Skynet-like, entity. VAR is human-controlled. VAR on that day was David Coote. David Coote failed to correctly aid Michel Oliver, not VAR.

VAR is not the problem. Referees are.

To compound the already poor officiating in the Mersyside derby, a late Liverpool winner was ruled out for offside in the build up against Sadio Mane, who when the lines were drawn by David Coote, seemed to be onside. Not the first time an incorrect offside would have been given by a VAR operator.

The poor refereeing trend continued into the Manchester City vs Arsenal clash, when a clear high foot from Kyle Walker on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang following a corner went unpunished just before half-time. Rather than helping referee Chris Kavanagh, VAR operator Stuart Attwell spinelessly bypassed the decision, and allowed his colleague to blow for half-time, hoping no one would notice. We did.

A rare case of a referee correctly using VAR was on display, however, in the Newcastle vs Manchester United game, with Craig Pawson being told to watch the pitch-side monitor, and rightfully awarding Manchester United a penalty for a foul on Marcus Rashford, which had been originally missed by the referee.

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Unfortunately, the good refereeing couldn’t be built upon, with Jamaal Lascelles escaping punishment for man-handling Dan James in the penalty area at a corner, the type of foul which, confusingly, is only sporadically punished by referees. Again, the VAR operator, this time Lee Mason, decided against the correct decision.

VAR is not the problem. Referees are.

To showcase the inconsistent refereeing so often seen in the Premier League, Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey was punished for the same offence that Lascelles escaped punishment for, when grabbing Michy Batshuayi in the penalty area. A good decision from Stuart Attwell.

The Spurs vs West Ham game saw the continuance of a lack of courage from referees, with Paul Tierney failing to punish Angelo Ogbonna for obstructing Harry Winks, who was on his way to block the West Ham equaliser. The missing backbone evident again; Tierney did not have the guts to disallow the late goal. VAR operator Peter Bankes was of little help, agreeing with his colleague’s decision to ignore the foul.

VAR is not the problem. Referees are.

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May 2024