Premier League referees may start using pitch-side monitors, reveals VAR chief – ‘We are evolving, things will change’

VAR chief Neil Swarbrick has told talkSPORT Premier League referees could start using pitch-side monitors soon if clubs and players demand improvements to the new system.

He also insists officials are looking into how they can communicate better with supporters to help ensure match-going fans are kept in the loop during the review process and about the decisions that have been made.

Video assistant referees have dominated the headlines over the first 12 weeks of the campaign following their introduction to English football – but the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative.

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VAR checkers at Stockley Park were busy this weekend, with big controversial decisions at Tottenham and Liverpool
Getty Images – Getty

Since the start of the season, we have seen 29 decisions in 120 games overturned at Stockley Park.

But these decisions have, more often than not, led to controversy, with officials criticised for being too harsh, too lenient, taking too long and taking the emotion out of the sport.

One of the biggest gripes with the system is that fans in the stadium are often left in the dark about what’s going on, and even players have complained they don’t have a clue while the referee checks with his counterparts at Stockley Park.

There have also been questions raised about why Premier League refs have not been using pitch-side monitors as they do in the Champions League and in other European divisions, with many feeling correct decisions are more likely to be made if the on-pitch officials look at incidents themselves.

And the man in charge of VAR in the English top flight, Swarbrick, has insisted that is one item on the agenda which will be discussed with referee chiefs soon.

“We will evolve with this, things will change,” he said in an exclusive interview with talkSPORT.

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So far, Premier League referees have not used pitch-side monitors to review incidents, as they do in the Champions League (above)

“There’s a Premier League stakeholders’ meeting on Thursday which will have PGMOL representation there, and potentially that could be on the agenda and will be talked about.

“We’re looking for feedback from clubs and players and we’ll take on board what they’re asking us.”

On the question of more detailed communication with fans, Swarbrick agrees more could be done but admits that is a matter for the Premier League to deal with.

“I do think that [communication with supporters] could be improved,” he added.

“We’re looking to put more information on the screens about what is actually being checked, but that’s not for the PGMOL to decide. The Premier League are the ones to answer that question.

“But if better communication and more communication with fans will help with the public perception, let’s hope the Premier League will look at that and things will improve on that front.”

Asked if referees could wear microphones for fans and broadcasters to hear their discussions – as officials do in rugby, cricket and other sports – Swarbrick admitted it is possible.

But he has urged people to be patient, insisting ‘teething problems’ were inevitable and that they are ‘working’ on making it more effective.

Swarbrick continued: “We look at other sports like cricket and rugby, they utilise the audio really when when checking decisions.

“But it’s taken those sports time to get to that position, it didn’t happen within 12 weeks; it’s taken them five, six, seven years to get to where they are now.

“I’m sure the same will happen with football as we look forward.

“We were the last European league to utilise VAR and there were always going to be teething problems – we said that from the outset. It’s not going to be 100 per cent perfect.

“But we are working with it, it’s a work in progress. We will look to improve certain elements going forward.

“Just stick with us.”

Listen to a clip of talkSPORT’s interview with VAR chief Neil Swarbrick above

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