Howard Webb: Introduction of VAR was always going to be a challenge
The 2010 World Cup final referee believes the system is the right way forward for the game
Howard Webb has called for patience over the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee after a controversial launch of the system in English football.
The VAR trial has been run in both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup this season, over a total of four live matches so far, with Wednesday’s FA Cup third-round replay between Chelsea and Norwich littered with controversial decisions.
Former Premier League referee Webb told Press Association Sport: “It’s always going to be a challenge because the game is subjective.
“We’ll only get better and better the more we train with it, the more we establish benchmarks and become efficient.
“People need to be a little patient, but overall I think most people would agree it’s the right way forward to avoid those clear errors that can be consequential for the careers of players, managers, officials.”
Former England captain Alan Shearer, in his role as a pundit for the BBC on the Chelsea-Norwich tie, labelled VAR a “shambles”.
Referee Graham Scott chose not to consult colleague Mike Jones over a penalty claim during extra-time of Chelsea’s FA Cup third-round replay against Norwich on Wednesday night.
Norwich defender Timm Klose, whose challenge on Chelsea’s Willian was under scrutiny, later conceded he thought it was a penalty.
The incident was reviewed some 13 times by the VAR, including in slow motion and using the angle from behind the goal, all of which was completed in around 45 seconds.
Following those specific replays, Jones, watching from a studio in London, was comfortable it was not a clear and obvious error by the on-field referee and so stuck with the original decision.
Had Jones been in doubt, he could have suggested Scott view the incident himself via a screen at the side of the pitch, giving the referee the opportunity to change his mind.
Press Association Sport understands the feeling at Professional Game Match Officials Limited, which is responsible for the trial system, is that further review of the Willian incident in super-slow motion would have provided the VAR with a different opinion, that there had indeed been enough contact to merit a penalty.
The VAR is likely in future to be encouraged to take more time to look at incidents, at a slower speed, to make sure the right decision is reached.
There is, though, a concern that the whole process does not take several minutes and detract from the flow of the game.
The VAR trial is understood to have thrown up some scenarios which had not been considered before, but is deemed as something to learn from as the system develops.
VAR had been used 24 hours earlier to award a goal for the first time in Leicester’s replay against Fleetwood.
Webb is aware of the talking points, but he did not see Chelsea-Norwich as he was training officials in Orlando, Florida.
The 46-year-old from Rotherham has been working as video review operations manager in the United States and Canada for the Professional Referee Organisation (PRO) since March 2017.
On Thursday the 2010 World Cup final referee was promoted to general manager of PRO, succeeding Peter Walton, after successfully implementing VAR into Major League Soccer.
Webb, previously the technical director for PGMOL, would have liked to have had VAR during his refereeing career.
He added: “Sometimes you get doubt in your mind and you’d like an opportunity for that to be checked. Now you’ve got somebody in the booth who is doing that.
“I think it empowers the guys to know they’ve got that faith.”
Here's our manager on the introduction of VAR...— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 18, 2018
🗣 “What you want is to improve the system that exists at the moment and VAR will improve it… personally I’m still a fervent supporter of it”
Tune in LIVE 👉 https://t.co/ya46sSWMej pic.twitter.com/bIegSCdYGH
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, feels VAR is the future of the game, even if there have been some initial “hiccups”.
“We will have to find the proper way to do it, but it has to go that way,” said the Frenchman, who is the longest serving manager in English football.”