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Question Number: 35358

Mechanics 2/24/2024

RE: Amateur Adult

Serge of Boston, Ma Usa asks...

There’s an obvious foul on a player from the white team Ref misses it. Play continues. Black team goes on attack. White team commits a foul. In the ensuing freekick ball is crossed into the box and scrapes a white player’s arm. Ref gives a penalty shot. Can VAR go back to the obvious foul and warn the ref since white never took possession of the ball after that initial foul the ref missed?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Serge,
Given the situation you describe? Short answer NO!

In a professional match if VAR notices an incident missed by the referee the communication should occur QUICKLY. "Hey you better look at this!" if in VAR opinion it can not be overlooked as it is too blatant. If the referee says, "Naw it was not that big a deal", then it fades away except for the post game reviews that could dredge up the no call .

If VAR WAITS or also misses it for some sorted reason or the on field officials delay and restart for a separate 2nd foul, there will be no chance or opportunity to revert to that 1st foul even if there was violent misconduct involved that could in theory still be punished

Not sure why a ball hitting the arm MUST be a PK unless the arm was deliberately used but the FACTS remain. Like the song , It is TOO late baby! A restart has already occurred!

For the PK to be reviewed and not taken, if Black fouls white and then crosses the ball which is in the opinion of the referee , deliberately handled by a white player and black is awarded a PK the VAR would definately review that earlier foul in the build-up to this penalty incident and say hey, not so ,look at this! . IF the 1st foul by black is now recognized by the referee, as there has YET to be a restart, no PK has yet occurred, this new information could affect play, thus no PK and DFK for white back at the earlier foul . The length of time and the fact there has been no other stoppages in between but at some point you can not salvage a mistake you only can dig a deeper hole!


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Serge
Thanks for the question.
Poor mechanics or perhaps no clear and obvious error here by the referee and confirmed by the VAR team has led to this situation.

Once the free kick is taken by Black anything that happened previously is now mute and the referee cannot go back to anything previous to THAT restart. Disciplinary action can still be taken at the next stoppage if required. That is a fundamental tenet of the Laws of the Game in that once play restarts there is no going back. It is the reason why VAR should be on the mic requesting that the referees should hold up the game and not allow a restart. It is why referees hold up the game pointing to their earpieces as a signal that a VAR check is taking place.

In your description the VAR may have decided that there was no clear and obvious error by the referee in the earlier incident and that the offence by Black did not meet the VAR opinion for a review. Remember VAR is not refereeing by video yet a tool to correct clear and obvious errors in
# goal/no goal
# penalty/no penalty
# direct red card (not second caution)
# mistaken identity when the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player of the offending team.

It is a tool to deal with clear and obvious errors in defined situations not was every decision correct yet was it clearly WRONG in the four defined situations. In subjective matters such as fouls a referee could opine that there was no foul while others will disagree. Unless it is blatantly clear and obvious VAR will not intervene.

In the recent West Ham v Sheffield Utd the referee did not award a last minute penalty to West Ham for an incident inside the Sheffield penalty area. The on field decision was that it was six of one half a dozen of another between the two players. Opinion was divided as to why VAR did not intervene in the game. PGMOL argued that on balance the referee made the judgement call of no offence and that VAR supported the call by not asking for an onfield review. I can see both sides of this and one that in my opinion could have gone either way although I was leaning towards the penalty. VAR did not see a reason from looking at the replay that the referee was clearly wrong.

So I suspect that the foul by Black may not have fitted any of the VAR criteria as it may have been a potential offence way back in the other half before any real attacking phase began nor that it was a clear error by the referee. While VAR checks every single incident many never get to review unless the incident meets the review criteria. The game wants referees to officiate as normal and to only use VAR to assist in clear and obvious errors leading up to goals, penalty awards, red cards and mistaken identity.
It would be untenable for VAR to be making the call on every single possible offence many perhaps way back in play unconnected with the build up to a goal / penalty award.

So in your scenario I can envisage either
1. VAR agreed with the onfield decision that the possible offence on White by Black was doubtful and not a clear and obvious error. That can be debated all day long.
2. The offence by Black happened well outside any attacking phase based on how play unfolded.
3. There was a communication error between VAR and the referee which allowed the restart.

You may recall the incident in the Premier League game between Tottenham and Liverpool where the onfield decision was offside and a goal was scored as the referee and AR allowed play to conclude before the offside flag was raised. VAR in its check saw that it was onside yet due to a communication error the referee went with the onfield offside IDFK rather than the kick off. VAR thought that the onfield devision was a goal and simply said *Check complete* which was correct for a goal but not for offside. The referee could not go back to correct that restart error after play had restarted so the goal was incorrectly ruled out.
Lessons were learned from the incident including a new VAR communication protocol to enhance the clarity of communication between the referee and the VAR team in relation to on-field decisions.
Had VAR said *Check complete you may award the goal* that would have conveyed an entirely different meaning and outcome with ultimately the correct decision bring made after clarification.

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