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Premier League clubs vote to keep VAR, pinpoint six areas for improvement

Premier League clubs have thrown their weight behind the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, voting overwhelmingly to continue using it.

Clubs voted 19-1 in favour of continuing to operate VAR in England’s top flight at today’s annual general meeting.

However, they also acknowledged the need for improvements after a 2023/24 campaign littered with costly errors.

Arsenal, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers all had gripes with VAR this season.

Wolves had proposed to scrap the system, arguing that the slight increase in accuracy comes at a hefty cost, damaging the spirit of the game and eroding fan passion.

Despite making a strong case, Premier League clubs have voted to keep the technology in use for next season.

The Premier League acknowledged improvements are needed and outlined a six-point agenda to enhance VAR’s efficiency and fan experience.

VAR has demonstrably increased decision-making accuracy, but a key concern remains its impact on the game flow.

The league, clubs and Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) all agreed to collaborate on streamlining the system.

Discussions focused on six key areas:

  • Maintaining a high intervention threshold: VAR will intervene in only clear and obvious errors to minimise disruptions.
  • SAOT helping to reduce delays: The Premier League will implement semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) in autumn 2024, alongside the aforementioned high intervention threshold.
  • Enhanced fan experience: Apart from the reduced delays, there will be clearer in-stadium announcements following VAR interventions. Also, there are proposals on the table for VAR checks to be shown on the big screens at the stadium.
  • Improved VAR training: PGMOL will implement more robust training programs for referees, emphasising speed and accuracy in decision-making.
  • Increased transparency: Expanded communication about VAR through the Premier League Match Centre and initiatives like ‘Match Officials Mic’d Up’ will provide greater clarity for fans and stakeholders.
  • Fan and stakeholder communication campaign: A dedicated campaign will further explain VAR’s role in the game, fostering better understanding from participants and supporters.

The much-anticipated introduction of SAOT promises quicker and more consistent offside calls.

The Premier League seems committed to addressing fan concerns while upholding the integrity of decisions through VAR. The upcoming season will be a crucial test for the refined system.

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