The thing about most refereeing decisions is that they contain an element of subjectivity. Agree with the call or disagree with it, no citation of the rules or call to logic can entirely overcome that variable human judgement was necessarily involved in making it.
No matter how seemingly right or wrong a call appears, now matter how obvious and inarguable, one can always find somebody somewhere arguing the opposite—likely also while citing the rules and calling for logic. Offsides, though, aren’t most refereeing decisions.
Offsides are measurements. They’re lines. They are a defined mathematical equation, one that says if a part of the attacker that can be used to play the ball is beyond a part of the penultimate defending player—typically the last outfield player but on occasion the goalkeeper—that can play the ball, they’re offside.
On the flip side, if no part of the attacker that can be used to play the ball is beyond a part of the penultimate defending player that can play the ball, they’re onside.
Against Tottenham, Luis Diaz’ entire body, both the parts that could play the ball and the parts that couldn’t, were not beyond the penultimate defending player. It was clear to the naked eye, with the lines on the grass at Tottenham Stadium making it obvious it wasn’t parallax displacement making Diaz appear to be onside.
Still, the linesman flagged offside. And, when Diaz subsequently scored, VAR did not intervene to correct the one error it is called on to correct that involves—or is meant to involve—no subjectivity.
You’re either onside. Or you’re off. And against Tottenham, Luis Diaz was on. Which the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) have now admitted to be the case.
“PGMOL acknowledge a significant human error occurred during the first half of Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool,” read their statement following the match. The goal by Luiz Diaz was disallowed for offside by the on-field team of match officials.
“This was a clear and obvious factual error and should have resulted in the goal being awarded through VAR intervention. However, the VAR failed to intervene. PGMOL will conduct a full review into the circumstances which led to the error. PGMOL will be contacting Liverpool to acknowledge the error.”
Elsewhere, Liverpool saw themselves down to nine men in controversial fashion, with Curtis Jones shown red after his foot rolled over the ball and impacted a Spurs’ player’s shin and Diogo Jota shown a defensible second yellow after a first that replays did not seem to support.
Those decisions, though, as well as a number of others that went against the Reds, at the end of the day were subjective. Their onside goal being ruled off wasn’t, and it’s frankly inconceivable VAR could have got such an obvious and objective call so badly wrong.
Incompetence is, perhaps, the obvious answer. Optically, though, it’s a bad look for the world’s self-professed top league to get obvious objective calls wrong, and it may lead some to question if it’s more than simple incompetence to blame.