It’s not often we get to hear the thoughts of a referee in the Premier League. It’s even more rare we get to hear one admit that they made a mistake. In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Mail, Michael Oliver has done just that.
Speaking about the confluence of the use of technology and human aspects of refereeing a game, Oliver described the technical process and the thought process that occurred during the sequence.
“The thought initially was, ‘It can’t be a penalty because it’s offside so we need to check the offside first’, said Oliver. “I think I said to the VAR, ‘If it’s not offside, I’m going to give a penalty’. I have watched it back so many times. I genuinely don’t think Pickford has done anything apart from try to spread himself but he did it the wrong way, as the injury has shown. We have all, myself included, not thought about the challenge as much as we should have done. We could still have given offside and sent Pickford off.”
This, of course, is what befuddled Liverpool fans were trying to comprehend in real time. Even with the offside call, the tackle was so reckless it was seemingly an obvious red card. It appears, however, that the VAR referee, David Coote, was so focused on determining whether Virgil van Dijk was offside, he failed to check the foul.
“We got sucked too much into going step by step as opposed to thinking of the bigger process, which was considering the challenge as well and not just the fact it can’t be a penalty. We should have restarted with the offside, as we did, but with a different punishment for Jordan Pickford.”
While it’s nice to hear a referee finally admit a mistake (and there have been plenty to choose from this season), it is of course too little too late. It doesn’t change the fact that van Dijk was lost for the season, and it doesn’t change the fact that Everton were able to continue the game with the full complement of players who seemed to take the non-call as a license to do bodily harm without consequence.