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Question Number: 34732

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 10/10/2022

RE: Adult

Douglas Wix of LIVERPOOL, Merseyside United Kingdom asks...

In the Arsenal v Liverpool match there were two penalty issues, one given, one not, yet I didn't see VAR intervene in Either. In my opinion our so called best referee Michael Oliver got both wrong, any thoughts please? Thanks in advance.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Douglas
VAR looks at everything in what is called a *silent* check. If play happens to continue for a period and the check is over then there is no need for the referee to hold up a restart.
Then there is the VAR process that is public and what is seen most times such as checking offside in a goal or in a missed incident by the referee with play being stopped. In those instances the referee cannot allow play to restart until the review has been completed.

On the two incidents you refer to both were VAR reviewed and play was held up.

On the penalty claim by Liverpool play was held up while it was reviewed and the on-field decision of no penalty was confirmed.
One of the issues I see with VAR in the Premier League is that VAR is reluctant to overturn the on-field decision. Referee Michael Oliver looked at it in real time and he probably felt the ball came a short distance from Jota and hit Magalhaes on the arm. The lead AR has a better view and he kept the flag down.
Now personally I am of the opinion that it was deliberate handling as the player had his arm raised around head height. I think if Michael Oliver had seen that he may have called it as handling. . As it stands VAR in the PL does not offer the possibility of the referee looking at the incident or only in limited cases. There is limited appetite to intervene to change an on-field decision unless it is blatantly a clear error.
Now the PL has had an unhappy VAR experience with that policy. When it comes to reviewing an on-field decision the PL is reluctant to hold up play for the referee to look at the monitor. Any time a referee goes to the monitor it is highly likely to be a different decision. This is built on the principle that the referee’s decision can ONLY BE CHANGED if the video review shows a CLEAR ERROR i.e. not ‘was the decision correct?’ but was the decision clearly wrong?’
On deliberate handling it is a subjective and not to give the handling was not clearly wrong. I suppose the PL does not want refereeing by video along with the resultant delays and as a result what we see is the outcome of that. The recent hair pull decision or no decision in the Chelsea v Spurs game highlighted the shortcomings of the PL VAR policy. VAR saw the referee looking clearly at it and did not give it so VAR did not give it either.

On the second one Thiago clearly makes contact with the back of Jesus' foot who plays the ball. Michael Oliver in real time awarded the penalty kick as he has seen the kick on the Arsenal player. Was it enough to merit a foul? That is subjective and personally I think that it runs a high risk of getting called. There’s no evidence to say the referee hasn’t made the correct decision so the VAR in the PL system stays out of it as it will always default to the referee’s on-field decision. VAR will see the kick on the foot and confirm that there was no contact on the ball.
Now PL referees were asked to raise the threshold on physicality this season and allow more contact. Without doubt Thiago doesn’t play the ball and there is contact on the foot but is it enough to give a penalty? That's the big question. If it wasn't given there would be equal amount of controversy with the video showing the kick to the foot.

For what it is worth both decisions were VAR reviewed. If I was the VAR official I would have advised both as penalties. the first one for deliberate handling and the second one for a kick on an opponent. The deliberate handling problem has plagued the game and continues to do so.
In this handling incident Magalhaes has not intentionally moved his hand to the ball yet his raised arm has made himself bigger while challenging for the ball and one can argue that is handling based on the deliberate handling advice. One can also argue that he had no chance to avoid the ball and his arm position may have been justifiable by the player’s body movement for that specific situation plus the ball comes from a yard away. That can also be debated. So while I am calling it DHB other will not. Next week a similar incident will be called.
On the second one the Law does not define the level of kick on an opponent. Jesus makes the most of the kick to the heel and without VAR it was given. VAR seen nothing to advise that the decision was clearly wrong so the decision stood.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Douglas,

It was a great match to watch although the defending choices at times rather odd!
I hold the opinion the officials were excellently positioned to make both calls.
Although certainly the AR looking in had a had a better view of the handling than the CR .
I hold the opinion the CR had a wide-open view of the penalty.
It is quite plausible that the 1st goal might have been marginally offside up near the midline and that also speaks to the VAR influence in the buildup of play !

A defender running in tight to challenge while jockeying for position cannot maintain balance properly without some arm movement as they are attached to the torso and they are weighted to counteract spin, torque etc. Now it's a PET peeve of mine that DH has evolved into this idiotic view that unless a player is holding his arms in behind his back while defending, (which is just stupid unless they are standing still blocking in a wall.) Almost ANY ball arm contact with air between the body and arm is automatically called as it is now almost built-in expectation. This was done to accommodate the conformity principle of consistency. Call it deliberate even if your guts churn and you know it was accidental. By the same degree of incredulity, I hold the opinion that if a defender goes to ground to slide tackle and drags the arms which contact the ball to be far more likely of a DH than if they remain upright. Same as if a player jumps and places arms above their head or stands there waving his arms like a seagull with palms out THAT is not normal.

In the case of the PK that was given. Interestingly the comment was THAT IS A SOFT PK? Why? It had the exact effect intended. This weak DFK foul prevented an attacker from controlling and redirecting the ball on goal It was a careless foul, just was not brutal wipeout but a little love tap of the heel ankle by a mistimed reach in to knock the ball away but catching the back of the opponent's foot instead.

So I am 100% ok with both calls, one not and the other given.

Now if I was VAR and my thoughts while analyzing I would consider THE ONFIELD officials looked to be in good position. So did they miss something? They saw the contact. The ball did contact the arm but it was TIGHT fast so no time to react! Was the arm unnaturally positioned to block the ball? The arm was swinging with the torso as it twisted. NOT OBVIOUSLY wrong thus no need to intervene

On the PK call . Good battle in front. Officials well positioned. Attacker goes down in a heap on what looks like a soft challenge. Did the attacker dive or exaggerate the contact to draw the foul? As VAR my verification would be did the defender make contact with the attacker? Was there contact with the ball first? Upon my review,, no ball contact, some foot to foot contact. Defender maybe doing the hey referee look at me role play to help sell the call but not obviously wrong, likely correct, thus no need to intervene .

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