Premier League chairmen have agreed changes to the communication of VAR inside grounds after grilling referees chief Mike Riley on their ‘grave concerns’ for close to two hours.
At a fractious and unusually long shareholders’ meeting yesterday, which included a visit from Prince William, the 20 top-flight clubs pushed through improvements to on-screen VAR messaging.
From next month the giant screens will say what type of VAR check is taking place, such as for a handball or a foul, in order to boost the experience for fans.
Although the clubs and PGMOL managing director Riley agreed improvements must be made to the ‘consistency, speed and communication of decision-making’, the consensus was that making fundamental changes mid-season would damage the integrity of the competition.
There will therefore be no ‘significant change’ made to VAR’s application in the Premier League, despite considerable division among clubs and fans over its impact so far this season.
Instead, research will be carried out with fans and other stakeholders to get their views on VAR and the system will be under continuous review.
Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow left the meeting saying all clubs have ‘grave concerns’ about VAR, although West Ham co-chairman David Gold said ‘VAR is alive and kicking’.
It had been mooted that clubs might recommend referees using pitchside monitors, but the protocol will remain that they should be used ‘sparingly’.
As he left the meeting at a London hotel, Purslow said: ‘I’ve got grave concerns but so does everyone in the room. We’ve had a very robust discussion. The message has got through to the league and to the referees’ association that fans are unhappy and many stakeholders in the game think we have to do a lot better.’
Gold said: ‘There’s not going to be any significant change. What I can say is that VAR is alive and kicking.
‘This is a brand new system. We just have to be a bit more patient. We will get it right.’
Asked specifically about pitchside monitors, which have not been used in the Premier League so far but are available at every stadium, Gold said: ‘I hate the idea of a referee that has been running around for an hour having to run over to a pitch-side monitor. I’m absolutely against it.
‘Some don’t have an opinion. Some like the idea but, predominantly, I don’t think it’s supported.’
The Premier League said the use of pitchside monitors will be reserved for ‘unseen incidents or when information from the VAR is outside the expectation range of the referee’.
Regarding how the VAR process is communicated within stadiums, the Premier League said: ‘There will be increased information made available to attending fans and viewers watching around the world. This will explain in more detail what is being checked.’