Mike Riley

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Premier League refs chief: Four mistakes past two Match Days

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VAR overruled four correct on-field decisions in the past two match days of Premier League play, says referees chief Mike Riley.

All four decisions were massively controversial when they happened, including a baffling pull back of an Arsenal would-be winner against Crystal Palace.

[ PL PREVIEW: Arsenal v. Saints ]

“Part of the balance of understanding ‘clear and obvious’ [the terminology used to determine when an on-field error should be overturned] is that there will be times when we don’t intervene and everyone thinks we should,” said Riley. “But that is a better place to be than intervening and everyone saying ‘you shouldn’t have done that’.”

The four instances are:

  1. Michael Keane‘s “foul” on Aaron Connolly to give Brighton an equalizer from the penalty spot in what eventually became a 3-2 loss for Everton.
  2. Manchester United were awarded a penalty when VAR saw Ben Godfrey‘s challenge of Daniel James as a penalty against Norwich City.
  3. Arsenal’s Calum Chambers was said to have fouled Luka Milivojevic of Crystal Palace while winning a ball for Sokratis Papastathopoulos‘ would-be third Gunners goal in a 2-2 draw.
  4. Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu was awarded a penalty after minimal contact from Jorginho in a 2-1 Chelsea win.

Two of those calls were relatively inconsequential to the result, as Chelsea and Manchester United had comfortable wins in instances 2 and 4, but Arsenal and Everton will feel they should have two and three more points, respectively.

That would have Arsenal six points back of the Top Four, not eight, while the Toffees would be seventh instead of 15th.

Guardiola: ‘Ask the referees, don’t ask me’ about handball non-call

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“Ask the referees, don’t ask me.”

That’s how Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola dismissed talk of the uncalled Trent Alexander-Arnold handball that came moments before Liverpool scored its wonderful opener in a 3-1 win at Anfield on Sunday.

“Ask Mike Riley and the guys in VAR,” he said. “I would like to talk about our performance, it was so good. It was one of the best performances we have played.”

[ MORE: Match recap | JPW’s 3 things from Anfield ]

The relative calm was a massive departure from how Guardiola left the pitch after a second, less intriguing handball shout to Alexander-Arnold after City had cut the three-goal lead to two.

Waving his hands frantically with two fingers raised on the touch line before sarcastically shaking Michael Oliver’s hand after the game, Guardiola struck two very different figures in a short period of time.

Guardiola went on to laud both teams for their performances.

Although we think he liked his team’s performance a bit more than he should — the last pass/decision was not where it usually is — City did have more possession, more shots, better passing, and won the aerial battle.

“We played like back-to-back champions. We cannot deny how good Liverpool are but the way we played, the personality, it was good.

“It was quite similar to the Champions League game. It was an incredible situations in that game too but the performance today was so good. Always we try, never give up that is why we are back-to-back champions. Always fight until the end.

“It is important to grow as a club and as a team. It was an honor for both team to show Premier League to spectators this type of game.”

PL refs chief: Four VAR mistakes this year

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Premier League referee chief Mike Riley says that four incidents review by VAR this season did not produce the correct decision.

There have been 227 incidents reviewed by VAR so far this season. Of those reviewed and unreviewed, a call has wronged Watford, Man City, West Ham, and Bournemouth. (The Cherries have both benefited and been harmed by an error).

[ MORE: Poch has Spurs “re-focusing” ]

Why have the errors been made?

“A combination of factors,” Riley said, via Sky Sports. “That is the fascinating thing as this project evolves, we are constantly learning. We are trying not to disrupt the flow of the game but on these occasions, the judgement should have been that it was a clear and obvious error.”

“One of the really positive things about the first four match rounds has been the quality of on-field performances,” he added. “All the referees have incorporated the things we need to do with VAR into their refereeing while still focusing on making real-time decisions.”

So where has VAR failed so far? Some were seemingly minor, others game-changing, and one possibly job-altering.

  • A missed handball in the lead-up to Fabian Schar’s equalizer against Watford, which ended in a 1-1 draw and, ultimately, the firing of Javi Gracia
  • An unawarded penalty to Man City’s David Silva after Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma stepped on his foot in the box (City won 3-1)
  • An ungiven red card when Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans stomped on Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson (The Cherries lost 3-1)
  • No penalty awarded to West Ham’s Sebastian Haller after being dragged down in the box (The Irons still won 2-0)

VAR to be used in one Carabao Cup semifinal, final

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Video Assistant Replay is finally making its way into English football, at least in the cup competitions.

With VAR to debut in the FA Cup on Monday in the match between Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion, the technology is set to be used in both legs of the Carabao Cup semifinal between Arsenal and Chelsea as well as the Carabao Cup final. VAR won’t be in use during the other semifinal between Manchester City and Bristol City because VAR capabilities are only installed in Premier League stadia currently.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

While VAR is being expanded, English referee Mike Riley warned that the technology will never make referees “100 percent” with their decisions, but it will help deal with “clear and obvious” errors.

“It’s going to take us time,” Riley said. “You’re actually asking a generation of referees to relearn or learn new processes and skills. It will never be 100 percent because it’s so subjective on certain things and we’re asking the clear and obvious question. We don’t want errors. If through this we make that four percent (of incorrect decisions made by select referees) two percent, we’ve benefited the game.”

“There will still be debate; there will still be interest. We are not sanitizing the game through VAR.”

The first game with VAR capability on the British Isles was in last November for a friendly match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium. The game finished a scoreless draw and VAR wasn’t used.

VAR can only be used for four game-changing situations. Goals, red cards, penalty decisions and cases of mistaken identity.

Arsenal and Chelsea meet in the Carabao Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, before the corresponding return leg at the Emirates Stadium on January 24. The final is set for February 25.

English referee chief calls for trial usage of video review

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Mike Riley, the outspoken chief of referees for the Premier League, has publicly stated he would support the usage of a limited video review system for league games as heat on referees turns up.

The standard of officiating this season has been astonishingly poor, the most recent event being referee Neil Swarbrick’s wrongful dismissal of West Bromwich Albion defender Gareth McAuley. Swarbrick has since apologized for the mistake, and McAuley will likely have his red card rescinded, but often the damage is done in the match.

Following the incident, Riley was emphatic in his support for a form of video review.

“It’s one of the areas that would lend itself to technology,” Riley said. “The game has stopped and there’s time before we restart the game to have a look at something. That would provide the concrete evidence that would get the decision right. I think football as a whole has to look at how we can enhance refereeing performances through the use of technology. We’ve been open-minded to things like the goal-decision system which has made a great difference and a great benefit to referees in the Premier League. We need to see what other technology can be used to get refereeing decisions more accurate.”

Riley still remained reserved about how it will come off, saying it needs to be used before anyone can judge. “We need to test it in live football,” Riley said. “Until we do that, we won’t know the impact on the game. Technology can be helpful but we don’t want to destroy the fabric of the game, the fast-flowing spectacle we all love.”

While many have come out in support of the move, this is the first time anyone notable within the officiating circle has backed the use of video technology.

Personally, I believe video review would be a devastating blow to the game flow – more of a negative than the upside could negate – and think the game can be improved greatly by simply adding referees to remove the pressure one official faces as the lone man on the pitch. But many support the move, and it’s certainly gaining steam.

Looking across other sports, American football was one of the first to add a widely expansive video review system that continues to grow each year. While the lengthy stoppages for reviews were at first jarring, the large amount of clock stoppages that are an intrinsic part of the game helped give referees time to review decisions thoroughly. Cricket, an inherently slow game to begin with, has fought back against video review in pockets but there’s little doubt it’s improved the game when used correctly and efficiently. In soccer, however, there are few – if any – stoppages, and even a two- or three-minute delay would seem like an age-long pause in the flow of the game and could act as a game-changing relief of pressure for a team on the ropes.

Nevertheless, it seems to seriously be gaining a strong backing, and with the shocking display of refereeing in the Premier League and beyond this season, something certainly must be done to lift the enormous weight off official’s shoulders.