Too early to ponder changing VAR displays inside stadiums, says Neil Swarbrick

Two incidents have put VAR and the new handball law in the spotlight already this season.

By Press Association Published: 21 August 2019 - 2.51pm

Former Premier League official Neil Swarbrick believes it is too early to consider altering the way match-going supporters are kept informed about video assistant referee decisions.

VAR technology was rolled out across the English top flight at the start of the season and there have been several talking points over the first two weeks of the campaign.

Wolves and Manchester City have had goals ruled out after the VAR highlighted handballs in the build-up play, while some fans inside stadiums have complained that they are unsure of the checking procedure.

VAR Media Briefing – Premier League Productions
Neil Swarbrick feels it is too early to judge the VAR system (Chris Radburn/PA)

The Premier League shows any VAR decision pending on big screens in 18 of the 20 Premier League grounds, with Old Trafford and Anfield not having screens in place to do so, and shows a replay if an original on-field call has been overturned.

There have been calls to have more informative displays for supporters but Swarbrick, who has trained Premier League officials to operate VAR, feels that once the technology becomes commonplace the need for in-depth stadium information will not be required.

“It probably too early,” Swarbrick told the PA news agency when asked if changing the approach to replays inside stadiums would be considered.

“It is always going to be an issue because it is new to the Premier League and not all supporters are privy to have the education. It is not possible with man power and time.

“I can understand the frustration but we are trying to do as much as we can to assist and alleviate any issues (supporters) have.”
- Neil Swarbrick

“The more we carry on into the season operating it, there will be more clarity for fans and the work we have done for the broadcasters, they can pass the knowledge on at home.

“I’d like to think supporters who go to support their team will pick up on things. I can understand the frustration but we are trying to do as much as we can to assist and alleviate any issues they have.”

VAR has largely been in the headlines because of the controversial new handball rule, introduced by the International Football Association Board over the summer.

Any handball which leads to a goal will be penalised, even if accidental, as Wolves defender Willy Boly and Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte discovered to their cost over the past two weeks.

Aymeric Laporte
Gabriel Jesus’ goal at the weekend was chalked off having clipped Aymeric Laporte’s arm in the build-up (Martin Rickett/PA)

But Swarbrick is pleased with how the Premier League VAR has highlighted those incidents, despite the majority of training taking place before the new IFAB ruling was put in place.

“So far everything is going well,” he said of the first fortnight of VAR in the Premier League.

“Obviously we have had a couple of overturns due to the amendments to the handball law, but all we are doing is dealing with what is in the law now.

“Even if it is accidental handball in the build-up to a goal and isn’t spotted by the on-field team, the VAR will pick up on that, so it is just about getting that information out there but we are delighted with how it has started.

“It is just the timing of when IFAB decided to amend the law so there is nothing we can do with that and we have no issues with it, we will carry on officiating to the laws of the game.

Neil Swarbrick
Neil Swarbrick feels two such controversial handball calls in successive weeks is ‘very unusual’ (Adam Davy/PA)

“Obviously it causes more discussion and more debate, but we have no issues with that. I think the fact it has happened twice in the first two weekends is very unusual.

“We could probably go six or seven weeks without it coming into effect again but at least we have got the reasons out there for why we have operated the way we have.

“The lads in pre-season carried on our training and the laws of the game changed on June 1. We were fully aware so everyone is fully switched on.

“The VAR has to be alert in the build-up to the goal, both referees didn’t know it had come off the hand but knew it had taken a deflection so that highlights it to the VAR to look closer and that helps with the time process.”