Premier League clubs to vote on removing VAR next month

credit: Shutterstock
credit: Shutterstock

After years of controversy Premier League clubs are set to vote on whether to keep or remove virtual assistant referees (VAR) at next month’s annual general meeting. 

The proposal was forwarded by Wolverhampton Wanderers due to the club being left frustrated with some decisions which it believes have gone against its team this season. 

Other clubs, such as Liverpool and Arsenal, have also issued letters criticising the VAR process this season. Nottingham Forest also accused referee Stuart Atwell of being biassed towards fellow relegation-threatened Luton Town during its defeat to Everton a few weeks ago.

Fans and the media have also raised frustrations with the length it takes for VAR decisions to be made. VAR is often criticised for taking from the essence of fan celebration of scoring a goal. 

The general meeting will take place on 6 June and would require a majority vote of 14 clubs to agree to scrap VAR. Whilst it is highly uncertain to predict which teams will vote to remove or remain, as Wolves were the club to propose the removal, it is likely the West Midlands team will vote to remove. 

A Wolves club statement read on the proposal: “After five seasons of VAR in the Premier League, it is time for a constructive and critical debate on its future. 

“Our position is that the price we are paying for a small increase in accuracy is at odds with the spirit of our game, and as a result we should remove it from the 2024-25 season onwards.”

The introduction of VAR into the Premier League in 2019/20 was brought in to significantly reduce the amount of controversial or incorrect errors made by on-field referees during games. 

Whilst VAR has had its fair share of critics, others have defended the technology and pointed out issues with the referee’s handling of it during matches. 

Back in October, Sky Sports pundit and Manchester United legend Gary Neville defended referees’ handling of VAR and was encouraged by their acceptance to carry out quicker reviews of incidents, even if some reviews were impacted due to the speed causing inaccuracies. 

The Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) has continued to back VAR and has cited an increase in the number of correct decisions from 82% to 96% this season. 

The organisation has been open to improving the technology, however. There is potential for the introduction of semi-automated offside technology and in-stadium VAR announcements to improve transparency for fans. 

A Premier League spokesperson issued a statement on the VAR vote: “The Premier League can confirm it will facilitate a discussion on VAR with our clubs at the annual general meeting next month.

“Clubs are entitled to put forward proposals at shareholders’ meetings and we acknowledge the concerns and issues around the use of VAR.

“However, the league fully supports the use of VAR and remains committed, alongside PGMOL, to make continued improvements to the system for the benefit of the game and fans.”

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