VAR Controversy: Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 victory against Liverpool on Saturday night was eventful.
Two red cards for Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota, along with a disallowed goal, led to the match being embroiled in controversy as soon as it concluded. Son Heung-Min put Tottenham ahead after a wonderfully worked team move, with Cody Gakpo responding on the brink of half-time.
Liverpool performed valiantly with ten men though Jota’s second yellow card led them to camp in their box for the final twenty minutes. Pedro Porro eventually broke through the backline and arrowed in a dangerous cross that Joel Matip couldn’t help but put into his own net.
The goals themselves, however, have been far away from the limelight.
Diaz Denied By VAR Error
In the 34th minute, Luis Diaz ran in behind Spurs’ high-line defence, getting beyond Porro to slot home. It came after Jones’ sending-off and would have put Liverpool 1-0 ahead at the time. PGMOL (the organisation responsible for refereeing in English football) released a statement after the match and admitted to “significant human error” causing Diaz’s goal to be wrongly disallowed.
“PGMOL will conduct a full review into the circumstances which led to the error.”
On Sunday, Liverpool put out a statement of their own where the club said they would “explore the range of options available” to them in regards to the disallowed goal.Embed from Getty Images
What Is the Range of Options?
This isn’t the first time the Video Assistant Referee will be at the centre of controversy, nor will it be the last. Though the technology itself has been criticised this weekend, it was, as PGMOL acknowledged, the fault of the officials and a lack of clear communication. Though the mistake has been recognised, it’s difficult to see what can be done to rectify such an error.
On Monday, Liverpool asked for audio to be released of the VAR decision being made. This isn’t unusual, with six matchday audios of contentious refereeing calls being shared so far this season, including Virgil Van Dijk’s sending-off away to Newcastle United.
Some discussion online has hinted at the match being replayed, but neither the club nor the Premier League has suggested that happening. A more likely possibility is legal action from Liverpool, but even that has stumbling blocks if the Reds did pursue it.
Why The Match Won’t Get Replayed
Back in the 2019/20 season, Aston Villa survived relegation by a single point ahead of AFC Bournemouth. However, when Villa’s 0-0 draw with Sheffield United was swept up in a goal-line technology mistake that would have put the Blades 1-0 ahead. Had the Villains lost that day then they would have been relegated to the Championship on goal difference instead of the Cherries.
Bournemouth considered but ultimately decided against legal action against the Premier League. One of the main obstacles that likely swayed them from doing so is Law 5 in the Football Association’s rules of the game, which states that “The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.”
Being an active part of the English football pyramid means any club understands and agrees to the FA’s laws and going against it in the courtroom would either lead to nothing at all or a seismic shift in how the game is governed in England. The latter is near impossible, even if you had Saul Goodman representing the club.
Jones’ Red and Ref Response
In the meantime, Liverpool has stated they will appeal against Jones’ red card to overturn referee Simon Hooper’s decision to send the midfielder off. Hooper originally brandished a yellow card for Jones’ tackle on Tottenham’s Yves Bissouma but upgraded it to a red upon reviewing it through the pitch-side monitor.Embed from Getty Images
The appeal feels like Liverpool’s need for some sense of justice against the match officials though it could be suggested that the fury and media attention on them is enough perhaps.
Ref Support UK, a charity that supports referees, stated “This past weekend has probably been one of the toughest for top-flight match officials in England.
“There will always be humans involved in the decision-making process in football, and humans, both players and referees, are fallible and will make mistakes. It’s how we learn from these mistakes that will take the game forward.”
We are disgusted at the racist messages directed towards Destiny Udogie on social media following Saturday’s game against Liverpool.— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) October 2, 2023
We will work with the Premier League and, where possible, take action against any individual we are able to identify.
We stand with you… pic.twitter.com/aJxcnelfZX
The deplorable racial abuse of Tottenham defender Destiny Udogie only further highlights how vitriol from football can quickly spiral into despicable words and actions.
Liverpool currently sits in fourth place in the Premier League table, a point behind Tottenham in second who continue their unbeaten start under Postecoglou.