Premier League clubs vote 19-1 to keep VAR but insist on improvements

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Premier League clubs have voted to preserve the use of video assistant referees in the competition and pledged to improve the performance of the technology “for the benefit of the game and supporters”. Wolves’s motion that the league should a­bandon VAR was rejected by clubs, who voted 19-1 to keep it, with the league proposing a number of tweaks to the system instead.

Foremost among the measures will be the introduction in October of semi-automated offside technology, which is expected to reduce delays in ­decision-making that have disrupted matches. The league has also promised a new “fan and stakeholder communication campaign” to aid understanding of the purpose and use of VAR.

The league said: “While VAR ­produces more accurate ­decision-making, it was agreed that ­improvements should be made for the benefit of the game and ­supporters. As part of thorough discussions at the annual general meeting, it was agreed that PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Limited], the Premier League and clubs all have important roles to play in improving the system and its reputation.”

Wolves said they were ­disappointed with the vote but were “reassured that the Premier League is taking the concerns of clubs and ­supporters seriously”. They said: “While we still believe that Premier League football would be superior without VAR, we think that these improvements are crucial for the integrity of the game and for ­enhancing the overall match-day experience for our supporters.”

The league has announced six areas in which it hopes to improve VAR performance after a season when the average delay in decision making increased by more than 50%.

The biggest initiative will be the adoption of semi-automated offside technology after the autumn international break. It will use dedicated in-stadium cameras to calculate the position of a receiving player when a pass is played and end the need to draw lines to determine offsides. It has been predicted to reduce the average time taken to calculate an offside decision by more than half a minute.

Other changes largely relate to communication. From next season, referees will be able to announce the reason for a VAR overturn, providing a small improvement in the stadium experience for fans. The league says it also hopes to provide “an enhanced offering of big-screen replays to include all VAR interventions”.

There will also be increased communication through the media, including the established Match Officials Mic’d Up broadcast when the head of PGMOL, Howard Webb, talks through the most controversial decisions. A public communication plan is also promised to “further clarify VAR’s role in the game to participants and supporters”. Plans to improve training in VAR for match officials will also continue.

The league’s six proposals have been anticipated and there will be expectation that they deliver an upturn in the performance of a ­system that is increasingly ­frustrating clubs and spectators.

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In another vote taken at the AGM in Harrogate, clubs agreed to trial two financial measures. Squad cost rules (SCR) will limit a club to ­spending no more than 85% of their revenue on player-related costs (including agent fees). Top to bottom anchoring rules (TBA) also limit spending on player costs, with each club limited to a multiple of the TV revenue generated by the division’s bottom club. This measure has been pitched as a means of maintaining competitive balance within the division, before what is expected to be a growing gap in ­earnings between those sides in European competition and those who are not.

The league had previously expressed an ambition to introduce a new financial system permanently from this summer. But warnings from the Professional Footballers’ ­Association over a lack of ­consultation have led to the move being converted to a non-binding trial, which will be voted on again next summer. Other proposed ­measures, which would have increased the spending ­headroom for clubs under existing profitability and sustainability rules, were not voted through.

The league said: “The overall ­system aims to improve and ­preserve clubs’ financial sustainability and the competitive balance of the ­Premier League, promote aspiration of clubs, facilitate a workable alignment with other relevant competitions and support clubs’ competitiveness in Uefa club competitions, while providing certainty and clarity for clubs, fans and stakeholders.”


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