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Head of VAR for Premier League Neil Swarbrick to retire at end of this season

The head of the Premier League’s video assistant referee (VAR) set-up Neil Swarbrick will retire at the end of the season, according to The Athletic.

The Premier League has been haunted with controversial refereeing decisions this season. There will be some changes at the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).

Swarbrick has been refereeing since he was 29, starting his career in 1994. He was promoted to the national list of assistant referees within six years.

The 57-year-old handled this role for four years before joining the referees’ list. He refereed in the Football Conference before moving up to the Football League.

Swarbrick also officiated FA Cup and Football League Cup games before taking charge of his first Premier League game in December 2010. It was a goalless draw between Fulham and Sunderland.

The Preston-born official gave his first red card in the top flight in his second game. He brandished a red card to Blackpool forward DJ Campbell in their 4-0 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Swarbrick joined a select group of referees to take charge of all Premier League fixtures for the 2011/12 campaign. Jonathan Moss was also on that list.

He retired from refereeing at the end of the 2017/18 season and led the VAR operation in the Premier League.

The VAR system was supposed to improve decision-making around goals, penalty calls, direct red card incidents and mistaken identity. But following several mistakes and wrong calls, it has received condemnation.

Swarbrick received criticism recently for failing to call referee Craig Pawson’s attention to a handball incident during Chelsea’s clash with West Ham United.

This news follows the resignation of Lee Mason, the league’s first video assistant referee. He made significant mistakes in Arsenal’s draw against Brentford earlier this month, the same day as Swarbrick’s errors. 

Following the mistakes, both men were not on duty for the next round of fixtures. Days later, PGMOL announced the departure of Mason.

However, there is no indication that Swarbrick’s resignation is a result of the recent happenings. He has planned this for some time.

There is no succession plan right now, but more officials will be arriving to support the refereeing system.

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