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Big Sam & Clattenburg Discuss VAR in the Premier League

Big Sam & Clattenburg Discuss VAR in the Premier League

On the latest episode of the No Tippy Tappy Football podcast brought to you via William Hill, Sam Allardyce, Natalie Pike and experienced referee Mark Clattenburg discuss the standards of refereeing in the Premier League, alongside hot topics such as VAR.

Clattenburg’s refereeing career saw him officiate 297 Premier League matches, 21 EFL Cup games, 37 FA Cup ties and 28 fixtures in the Champions League across a 13-year period between 2004 and 2017, having initially started out as an Assistant Referee in 1993 in the Northern League at levels nine and ten before working his way up the ranks and divisions in the English football pyramid.

VAR is There to Solve Problems, But has it Created More?

Interestingly, during the No Tippy Tappy Football podcast, Clattenburg mentions that referees are “scared” to make the decisions on the pitch, despite the fact that officiating matches are ultimately their jobs.

There have been recent showings of this, particularly in West Ham United’s recent 1-1 draw with Chelsea, where Tomas Soucek handballed an incoming shot from Conor Gallagher late on in the match, with the referee deeming that the Czech Republic midfielder broke his fall, rather than producing a save that a goalkeeper would have been proud of.

On top of this, the 47-year-old former referee also brings up the fact that there are flaws with VAR, due to their high levels of intervention and contact threshold. He believes that this “compounds the error” as VAR is effectively there to correct a blatant refereeing mistake.

Last season, there was also a blatant handball of a similar nature by Arsenal’s Cedric Soares against Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium, as the Portuguese full-back looked to have intentionally swiped the ball away from Jadon Sancho while stumbling in his own penalty area, with the referee controversially deeming this once against as breaking a fall.

Clattenburg brings up a specific period of time in his career on the NTTF podcast, initially referring back to his time as a referee in China, where he was made to cooperate with VAR on a frequent basis as a referee, making the remark that the new technology effectively takes away the powers of being a referee on the pitch.

Perhaps one of the most glaring VAR controversies since its introduction in the Premier League was in the 2020/21 season where Brighton captain Lewis Dunk scored what looked like a good free kick away at West Bromwich Albion, only for it to be chalked off. During this phase of play, Lee Mason and the VAR team made a series of errors before controversially disallowing the goal.

Despite making a clear error here, Mason was appointed to operate as the VAR official in Arsenal’s potentially costly 1-1 draw with Brentford last weekend and ultimately “forgot” to draw the offside lines that would have ruled out the Bees' equaliser in the match.

The overlying problem seems to be that the referees are not making the decisions on the pitch that they would have initially in Clattenburg’s time, while the VAR intervention threshold is too high, compounded by the fact that those that operate it have made a series of inconsistent decisions.