• Dan Tracey

VAR – What We Know So Far

With the dust settling on the first three weeks of the new Premier League season, it is fair to say that the officials have left us with plenty of talking points to discuss. In the past, the debate regarding officials and their interpretations of the laws has been as subjective as the actual decisions themselves and because of this, two sides of any argument rarely deal with facts.

Your club loyalty and whether they have benefitted from a controversial decision, usually frames your stance in such an argument and therefore, judgement is often rather clouded. However, those clouds should now begin to break, as with a whole host of statistics at our disposal, there has never been an easier time to back up your arguments with data - which we know never lies.

For example, in the first 28 games of this Premier League season, there has been a VAR call contained within every game.

Much has been made of whether home advantage is still a concept in this current footballing climate and with the prospect of stadia being locked for another six months, this is something to keep a close eye on. The definitive answer to that will unfold over the course of the season, although if we are looking at matters from a pure VAR perspective, it has paid to be the visitors in the first three weeks of the campaign. From those 28 VAR calls, a staggering 19 (67.8%) have gone in favour of the visitors, leaving just 9 (32.2%) for those who have been welcoming the opposition to their homes.Of course, just because there has been a VAR call, does not necessarily mean that referee and technology will be aligned. So far 11 (39.28%) VAR calls have then been overturned. This shows that the relationship between those on the field and those watching the video is not as symbiotic as the power brokers within the Premier League would hope for.

At just under 40% (and admittedly this number will be relatively large because of a small initial sample), it may show that the implementation of VAR is not necessarily the problem, instead it might be the application of the laws themselves. One law in particular caused an almighty amount of umbrage in week three of this season, as a trio of contentious handball calls were given. With the Premier League now softening their stance, the propensity for penalty awards at such a scale will have been lessened somewhat. However, the handball law will not undergo overriding change, it is more a case of discretion being applied in future.

Had that discretion been applied, then there is every chance that Joel Ward’s handball against Everton would not have been awarded and it could have seen Crystal Palace continue their unbeaten start to the season.

As we progress into week 4, we’ve seen 42 major refereeing decisions in the first 28 games of the season – an average of 1.5 per game and from those, an incredible 20 penalties have already been awarded.

This means the Premier League is currently averaging 0.71 penalties a game and if this ratio were extrapolated over the course of the whole 2020/21 season, 380 fixtures would present the viewing public with 270 spot kicks.

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