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VAR: How Many Times Did The Refs Screw Up And Not Get Caught?

After last weekend’s debacle at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, one question remains on my mind.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool FC - Premier League Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

There are refereeing mistakes, and then there are refereeing mistakes. That the wrongly disallowed goal against Tottenham Hotspur remains in the news is not surprising considering the enormity of the mistake. Indeed, it was a refereeing mistake. It’s unprecedented in the VAR era to allow an objectively incorrect decision to stand.

Well done boys. Good process.

However, one question remained for me, and I’ve not seen it asked elsewhere, so I’ll ask it here: How many other times has a miscommunication and/or general ineptitude led to the incorrect on field decision being given, without overturning it?

In the same way that someone busted for drunk driving for the first time probably wasn’t a first-time drunk driver, it seems reasonable to ask how many times did the refs screwed up the good process of VAR prior to last weekend?

I’m not talking about the times PGMOL “apologized” (or rather acknowledged a mistake), which is 13 times and counting since 2022.

Rather, I’m asking about other instances where the VAR (good) process started, but play resumed and it was suddenly “too late” to do anything about it, like what happened last Saturday.

The refs only got busted last week for three reasons unique to the occasion:

1) An offside call like Diaz’s is either correct or incorrect. There is no way to view it other than onside that fits within the laws of the game. Unlike cards or penalties that either may be given or not, this decision was 100% incorrect.

2) Tottenham-Liverpool was the Premier League matchup of the weekend. It was in prime time on Saturday night, and the whole world was watching.

3) Somewhat related to point #2, the simple fact that Liverpool was involved at all, means that any mistakes or curious decisions were going to be highly publicized.

It seems likely to me that this wasn’t the first massive screw up by the VAR (good) process. Instead, it seems far more likely that at various other points in the past, the Video Assistant Referee saw a variety of subjective calls, possibly in less marquee matchups, such as penalties or sending offs, that were never given because the ref accidentally let the play resume.

This is of course all just speculation.

I have no evidence, other than my subjective experience as a fan of Liverpool Football Club, having seen many curious decisions go against the Reds, even (especially?) in the VAR era. Oh, and the 13 admissions of guilt in the last 1.5 years alone. Oh, and the likelihood that their first time being caught likely wasn’t their first time making a massive error.

Of course, we wouldn’t have to speculate on this if PGMOL just made VAR much more, or completely, transparent. Clubs shouldn’t have to demand that audio recordings be released, nor should they have to threaten legal action.

As fans, we can accept that mistakes are made. We can also expect that actions will be taken to improve the good process, and demand transparency, even (or especially) when it isn’t clear whether mistakes have been made.

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