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In-game audio of VAR calls to be released more often next season: Howard Webb

LONDON – Releasing in-game audio recordings of VAR (video assistant referee) decisions concerning key incidents in English Premier League matches is likely to become more common next season, referees’ chief Howard Webb has said.

In-game audio from key decisions was released for the first time when Webb joined Sky Sports pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher on the Monday Night Football programme to discuss incidents from this season.

The former referee showed video and audio recordings of interactions between on-field referees and VAR officials discussing in-game situations and explained how the decisions were made.

Incidents that they discussed included disallowed goals for Kai Havertz of Chelsea against Liverpool and Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard against Leicester City.

The trio also spoke about the overturning of a penalty for an alleged handball by Arsenal’s Jakub Kiwior in the Gunners’ match against Newcastle United earlier in May.

“We’re looking to do this (release audio) as much as we possibly can,” Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) chief Webb said on the show, noting that Fifa would not allow them to play the audio live during the game.

“Tonight is obviously something new. We’re making a small step forward. Going forward into next season we will look to do more of the same.

“We can’t play it live... Who knows where that might go in the future? But there’s nothing to stop us doing what we’re doing tonight and showing it later.

“I hope tonight has been a good insight to reveal the way the officials work together as a team and some of the rationale for some of the decisions that have been taken.”

VAR was introduced to the Premier League at the start of the 2019-20 season.

While the technology was meant to improve the game by making sure that refereeing decisions are as accurate as possible, there has been no lack of controversial incidents.

The PGMOL had apologised for wrong VAR calls this season, most recently when Brighton & Hove Albion were not award a penalty in their 2-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in April.

Webb also explained on the show how the system specifically works.

“You are going to hear a few voices. The on-field officials, the referee, the assistant referees and the fourth official. They are making the decision, the on-field decision,” he said.

“Then the VAR and the assistant VAR will also be heard. They are the people doing the checks on those big key incidents.

“They are also assisted by a replay operator, a technician, who gives the officials the angles they need to look to make those important calls.” REUTERS