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EPL clubs to discuss scrapping VAR from next season

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Premier League clubs will next month discuss whether the video assistant referee (VAR) system should continue to be used from next season after Wolverhampton Wanderers formally called for the technology to be scrapped.

In the annual general meeting on June 6, clubs will vote on whether to retain or abolish VAR, according to The Athletic's David Ornstein. The proposal to dump VAR would need a 14-6 majority to pass.

"Clubs are entitled to put forward proposals at shareholders' meetings and we acknowledge the concerns and issues around the use of VAR," a Premier League spokesperson said.

"However, the league fully supports the use of VAR and remains committed, alongside PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited), to make continued improvements to the system for the benefit of the game and fans."

VAR was introduced to the Premier League in 2019. Although it's helped officials reach more correct decisions, it also consistently causes controversy and is a commonly discussed topic in the media. In perhaps the most controversial on-pitch moment of the season, a goal for Liverpool's Luis Diaz against Tottenham Hotspur was mistakenly disallowed for being offside by VAR officials in September.

Wolves stressed that they weren't blaming any specific people or groups as they called for "constructive and critical debate" on VAR's usage. The club's head coach, Gary O'Neil, has been a vocal critic of VAR this season.

"Our position is that the price we are paying for a small increase in accuracy is at odds with the spirit of our game, and as a result, we should remove it from the 2024-25 season onwards," Wolves' statement read.

Ornstein listed the problems with VAR that Wolves outlined:

  • Goal celebrations and spontaneous passion have been diluted because of fans anticipating the use of video review.
  • Increased frustration and confusion inside stadiums due to VAR checks and poor communication. Fans have additionally booed the Premier League anthem, chanted against VAR, and even accused the competition of corruption.
  • The game's legitimacy is harmed by VAR closely examining subjective decisions, rather than "clear and obvious" incidents. The Premier League's fast pace is also harmed by reviews, which lead to excessively long matches.
  • Supporters' trust in officials has dropped because on-pitch referees make fewer quick decisions while they wait for VAR to intervene. Errors are still being made after long reviews, too.
  • Discourse about VAR decisions often dominates what actually happens in matches.

In addition to the grievances of Wolves and Liverpool (after the Diaz incident) with VAR, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Nottingham Forest have also publicly complained about the technology this season.

The Premier League's board of directors is concerned that removing VAR would result in a technology void that could harm the English top-flight's reputation among its rivals and lead to more criticism of on-pitch decisions as well as more incorrect calls, Ornstein reports.

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