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Mike Riley says VAR errors have been made, but asks Premier League to keep faith insisting system will improve

Mike Riley, the referees’ chief, has urged the Premier League to keep faith with his version of video assistant refereeing (VAR) despite admitting the technology was wrong in overturning four refereeing decisions this season.

A review by the Professional Game Match Officials Board has acknowledged mistakes by the use of the technology surround over-rulings leading to three penalties. Riley, the managing director of PGMO, cited the errors as he told media improvements would now be seen surrounding speed, consistency and quality of communication. The VAR system at Stockley Park had been wrong, he explained, on:

  • A spot kick for Brighton after referee Andy Madley initially waved away pleas when Everton defender Michael Keane caught striker Aaron Connolly inside the box. Albion were 2-1 down with just 12 minutes, but subsequently won the game.
  • A penalty for Manchester United against Norwich after Stuart Attwell initially ignored claims Daniel James had been fouled by Ben Godfrey. Both managers disagreed with the decision.
  • The Watford spot-kick against Chelsea after Gerard Deulofeu tumbled under the slightest of contact from  Jorginho in the penalty area. Frank Lampard later called for clarification on the use of VAR.
  • The decision to overturn Sokratis Papastathopoulos’s late goal against Crystal Palace last month for an alleged foul in the build-up to his strike. Arsenal, who had let a two-goal lead slip, were ultimately forced to settle for a 2-2 draw at the Emirates.

Despite weeks of complaints from clubs and fans since the start of the season over delays and perceived injustices caused by the technology, last week clubs ducked the opportunity to make major changes at a shareholders’ meeting.

Riley urged them to keep faith, he has since explained. “You look at any country that’s implemented VAR and everyone in the game has to go through that learning curve together,” he said.

“We have been very good over time at understanding and analysing refereeing decisions and you’ll have debate every week previously about, I thought that was a penalty, I didn’t think it was penalty and the reasons why. We are now going through a process of adding VAR to that mix. Accepting at the same time that we’re far from perfect.

“We’ve got to improve the way that we do things. You put the two together and in time you get something that will benefit the game.”

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