PL clubs to vote for VAR to be scrapped

In a sensational turn of events, the 20 Premier League member clubs are set to vote on a motion to scrap the controversial Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

The vote will take place at the league’s AGM on 6th June. The motion was put forward by Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have suffered from repeated controversial VAR decisions.

Wolves fans calling for VAR to be scrapped
Wolverhampton Wanderers and their supporters have been vocal in their desire for VAR to be scrapped – Photo by Icon Sport

Why do some want VAR to be scrapped?

Since being introduced in 2019/20, the VAR system has divided opinion. Despite some moments of success and vindication for VAR, 2023/24 has been no different.

VAR’s critics point to the litany of high-profile errors made by VAR this season alone. The most infamous was Luis Diaz’ goal at Tottenham being incorrectly ruled offside, but there have been others.

Nottingham Forest have written letters criticising PGMOL’s use of the system, and demanded that the audio of chat between officials be released after they were denied three penalties in a 2-0 defeat at Everton.

Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was incensed after Anthony Gordon’s controversial winner against his side in November

Mikel Arteta described the Premier League's refereeing as “a disgrace” – Photo by Icon Sport

However, the main torchbearers at this time seem to be Wolves, who crafted a statement earlier this week.

In Wolves’ statement, they set out a series of complaints: 

  • Impact on goal celebrations and the spontaneous passion that makes football special
  • Frustration and confusion inside stadiums due to lengthy VAR checks and poor communication
  • A more hostile atmosphere with protests, booing of the Premier League anthem and chants against VAR
  • Overreach of VAR’s original purpose to correct clear and obvious mistakes, now overanalysing subjective decisions and compromising the game’s fluidity and integrity
  • Diminished accountability of on-field officials, due to the safety net of VAR, leading to an erosion of authority on the pitch
  • Continued errors despite VAR, with supporters unable to accept human error after multiple views and replays, damaging confidence in officiating standards
  • Disruption of the Premier League’s fast pace with lengthy VAR checks and more added time, causing matches to run excessively long
  • Constant discourse about VAR decisions often overshadowing the match itself, and tarnishing the reputation of the league
  • Erosion of trust and reputation, with VAR fuelling completely nonsensical allegations of corruption

Though most of its critics will concede that VAR has led to some incidents that may have been missed by on-field officials being correctly punished, for many, its drawbacks are too large a price to pay for a very slight improvement in accuracy.

Aston Villa's equaliser against Liverpool on Monday secured fourth place, but it had to withstand a VAR review – Photo by Icon Sport

Will VAR really be scrapped?

Firstly, for seismic changes such as this, there must be a two-thirds majority of support for the motion among the 20 Premier League clubs. So 14 clubs must vote in favour.

VAR expert Dale Johnson has compiled a net leaderboard for VAR decisions for and against since the technology’s introduction in 2019/20, which may provide some clue as to clubs’ voting intentions:

  1. Brighton +6
  2. Aston Villa +4
  3. Liverpool +4
  4. Everton +3
  5. Man City +3
  6. Man United +3
  7. Newcastle +3
  8. Chelsea +2
  9. Crystal Palace +2
  10. Tottenham -3
  11. West Ham -5
  12. Arsenal -7
  13. Wolves -17

This, of course, only takes into account the 13 everpresent clubs since 2019/20.

However, there are other factors that may lead to VAR staying on.

Since the introduction of VAR to the Premier League in 2019/20, almost every elite competition has adopted the technology. The top five European leagues, Champions League, European Championships and World Cup all use VAR. 

The Premier League reversing their decision would put them out of step with their peers, something those at the top end of the league in particular may have reservations about.

Swedish supporters have successfully blocked the implementation of VAR in the Allsvenskan – Photo by Icon Sport

The only league in Europe’s top 30 to vote against VAR’s introduction was Sweden, earlier this month.

Supporters of VAR also make the valid point that the system is but a technology, and that it is reductive to blame the technology instead of the humans using it, and that people complained about refereeing decisions just as much before its introduction.

The Premier League’s chief football officer, Tony Scholes, claimed in March that VAR now gets 96% of decisions correct and that the league believed that the majority of supporters were still in favour of the system.

He did concede that communication within stadiums needed to be improved and that decisions needed to be sped up.

Some of this will supposedly be achieved by the introduction of semi-automated offsides, as used successfully at the 2022 World Cup. The 20 member clubs voted unanimously to implement this technology from 2024/25 earlier this season.

On the balance of probabilities, it is likely that VAR will still be in use for 2024/25. However, that clubs themselves, and not just disgruntled fans, are contemplating scrapping it illustrates that the long term future of VAR in English football is definitely in question.

VAR is not the only controversial part of the Premier League's officiating, as the league recently voted narrowly to introduce a spending cap.

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William Evans

William Evans is a football and politics fanatic. A first-class graduate of UEA's Broadcast and Digital Journalism MA course, he also achieved a first class degree in politics and media studies during his time at UEA.