The inconsistencies in Premier League officiating

Decisions can prove costly

Manchester United’s match against Southampton last month has once again brought to the forth the ups and downs in refereeing decisions in the Premier League.

The match referee leaves fans needing clarification on the rules of the game. It almost seems the application of regulations differs in every match, based on the interpretation of the official in the middle of the pitch.

The introduction of VAR has yet to eliminate these issues. But VAR has massively improved officials’ decision-making, especially decisions that escape their sight and also those marginally ruling for offside.

A major talking point of the United-Southampton match is the tackle by Casemiro, which happened under the watchful eyes of the match official and was initially ruled as a yellow card offense by Anthony Taylor. However, the VAR Ref, Andre Marriner, informed Taylor to take a second look at the incident. When watched in slow motion, Taylor rescinded the initial yellow card and gave Casemiro his marching orders – a straight red.

The inconsistency

24 hours earlier, Andre Marriner was the center referee in the match between Chelsea and Leicester City. Equally “dangerous” tackles by Amartey and Pereira, in two separate incidents. But only one challenge resulted in a yellow card (Pereira) that was shown by the same Marriner. If those tackles were not deemed a red card, then Casemiro’s tackle should not have been deemed a red card offense.

In his post-match interview, Erik ten Hag rightly questioned the decisions of the referee. He went further by claiming, “What I think is the inconsistency, players don’t know anymore what are the policies.” The Premier League must achieve a level of consistency in their application of rules in matches. It makes their referees look out of depth in their duties and creates controversial moments during matches.

Stakes are high

In professional football, where the stakes are high, the smallest of margins determine a game’s result. In this case, the margin for error is low.

The importance of maintaining a good level of consistency across the board by match officials can not be overemphasized.

To protect these multi-billion pound investments is one of the major reasons VAR revised its rules to address “clear and obvious errors” that the main referee might have missed.

However, the English football world remains at the forefront of controversies with its match officials finding it hard to maintain consistent decisions during matches.

Rules should not be subjected alone to the interpretation and understanding of the match official, the application of it should be standard in all matches.

In another terrible VAR mishap and error in judgement this season is the match between Arsenal and Brentford — which cost the Gunners two valuable points — that could prove fatal to their championship-winning ambitions this season. Lee Mason, the VAR referee during that match, has since left his role as a premier league match official.

Moving forward

My argument for VAR is, it is a machine operated by humans. Mistakes made as a result of VAR’s decision are solely on the human operators and as such, proper interpretations for offsides, fouls, and goals should be addressed and should be applicable for all 38 league matches.

What fans want is this: if this tackle is a red card in Match A, then that should be standard across all matches, for similar or worse tackles, as well as goal-scoring incidents. These allow fans and players alike to grow accustomed to the rules and the resultant effects. The beautiful game of football should be enjoyed and not misunderstood because of refereeing decisions.

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