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EPL: Changes to VAR in 2021/22

With the start of the new Premier League season right around the corner there were changes announced to the Virtual Assistant Referee that will have immediate impacts on the Premier League. This season marks the third in the competition to use VAR. Each season seems to bring more learning opportunities and controversies as they relate to VAR and hopes of improvements with these new rules. VAR Hub in Stockley Park will be making improvements in: marginal offsides, delayed flags for offsides and “principles for decision-making around what challenges players should constitute fouls.” TGH takes a look at these new rules and implementations of VAR and how they will affect the game.

Marginal Offside

Sadio Mane barely offsides. (Photo via Sky Sports)

VAR will use the same one-pixel lines as last season, but there is a new twist. Thicker broadcast lines will then be placed on-top and if they overlap, the goal will be ruled onside. Mike Riley, Managing Director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited, said this should give back 20 goals that were disallowed last season. Another change is showing the fans the final image confirming offside or not, instead of showing the whole decision-making process. This was a practice used in EURO 2020 and other international competitions.

Delaying the Flag

Delayed flag for offside. (Photo via Premier League)

Last season, assistant referees delayed raising the flag for offside if the play could continue and finish in a goal. Once the move was over, the assistants would then raise their flag for the first offside. After the move/play was over, VAR could go back and check if said play was on or offside. After feedback from clubs and players, referees will raise the threshold for what is a goal-scoring opportunity. An example for this upcoming season would be a player on the wing receiving the ball in an offside position will now be flagged immediately. 

What is a Foul?

VAR checking for a possible foul. (photo via Daily Express)

Clubs were asked by the Premier League about VAR and what sort of contact constitutes a foul. “We’ve lost a bit of that contact sport, probably because of the intervention of VAR. The experience of the Euros has shown that people will appreciate it if you allow the game to flow, if you accept that some small contacts aren’t fouls; they are part of the game”, said Riley. The clubs and players asked for the threshold to be raised. The referees will consider three factors:


  1. Is there clear and proper contact?
  2. Does that contact have a consequence – does it make somebody fall over?
  3. Is the motivation of the player to use that little contact to go down?


Referees will be tasked with penalizing clear contact with clear consequences, but to leave the small things alone. It will take some adjustments for everyone in the league to get these new rules and decisions working properly, but expect VAR to be less controversial this season.     


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