Howard Webb: Premier League exploring in-stadium explanations for VAR decisions

Howard Webb has confirmed the Premier League is exploring the introduction of in-stadium announcements to explain video assistant referee (VAR) decisions.

The idea was discussed at April’s Premier League shareholders’ meeting, where the introduction of semi-automated offsides was approved.

In-stadium announcements from referees was used at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand — the first time it had been implemented at a senior World Cup, having already been utilised at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco and the Under-20 World Cup in Argentina.

England’s officiating body, the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL), are keen to introduce the measure and chief operating officer Webb confirmed this intention to improve communication for match-going supporters.

Speaking on Premier League production ‘Match Officials Mic’d Up’, Webb said:  “It (the in-stadium experience) does need improving, doesn’t it? When you hear the clips on shows like this it makes sense what’s happening.”

Referencing the process behind referee Andy Madley’s decision to not award a penalty to Brighton during April’s Premier League fixture at Brentford as Lewis Dunk and Yoane Wissa tussled in the box, Webb continued: “It all becomes apparent and actually you’ll hear the referee, Andy Madley, having been to the screen saying, ‘I’m going to speak to Lewis Dunk to explain why the penalty that he feels he should have isn’t going to happen because he’s fouled Wissa before that.’ We’re looking at ways to improve the in-stadium experience.

“One of the things you’ll have seen maybe in FIFA tournaments, like the Women’s World Cup, is announcements from the referee once they’ve been to the screen. So we’re looking at that, we’re keeping an open mind about whether that’s something we could utilise in the Premier League.

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The measure was used at last summer’s Women’s World Cup (Grant Down/AFP via Getty Images

“For situations like this it would be really useful for the referee to be able to speak to all of the people in the stadium — (to explain) the rationale for why you didn’t give a penalty because of the foul that happened before the penalty appeal when Dunk fouled Wissa.”

At the Women’s World Cup, the explaining of decisions came following a VAR intervention, with the referee approaching the pitch side monitor, making their decision and then announcing this over the stadium loud speakers.

FIFA explained it’s decision to introduce the measure at the tournament was to improve transparency — an area Webb has been keen to improve in the Premier League since his appointment to PGMOL’s leadership team in December 2022. This has included initiatives such as ‘Match Officials Mic’d Up’, the television show which has released Premier League referee audio publicly for the first time.



Premier League to use semi-automated offside technology next season

(Top photo:Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

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