VAR vote: What Premier League fans want their clubs to do

The Athletic UK Staff

On Wednesday, The Athletic revealed that Premier League clubs are set to hold a vote at their annual general meeting next month on a proposal to abolish the video assistant referee (VAR) system from the start of next season.

VAR has been used in the English top flight since 2019 to help improve decision-making but has also generated persistent controversy.

A resolution has now been formally submitted to the Premier League by Wolverhampton Wanderers calling for VAR to be scrapped this summer — and that will trigger a vote when representatives of the 20 clubs assemble for their yearly gathering, in Harrogate, on June 6.

Premier League clubs have a constitutional right to put forward rule changes, with any proposal needing a two-thirds (14-6) majority to pass.

After breaking the story, we asked each club’s subscribers how they would like their team to vote. Of the current 20 Premier League teams, 15 wanted their clubs to vote to remove VAR. That included both teams who will be relegated this season and therefore will not get to vote (and Luton, who seem certain to join them), but supporters of the two teams confirmed as being promoted from the Championship, Ipswich Town and Leicester City, also voted in favour of removing VAR from the top flight.

Here are the results along with an explanation from our reporters.

It’s perhaps surprising that more Arsenal fans haven’t voted to scrap VAR after many of them felt the system let them down badly in their 1-0 defeat to Newcastle back in November.

Presumably, many Arsenal fans feel the problem is not so much with the technology as with its application – and those employed to apply it. It’s also worth considering that a club of Arsenal’s size have a significant international fanbase, many of whom will be accustomed to video technology being integrated into their domestic sports without major issues.

Arsenal were unhappy with Gordon’s winner (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Perhaps Arsenal fans are also still burned by poor officiating decisions from the pre-VAR era. Many will have painful memories of visiting grounds like Old Trafford and being shortchanged by the on-field officials.

James McNicholas

Broadly speaking, the strength of feeling towards VAR has softened from Aston Villa supporters, with just 38 per cent in favour of scrapping it. The hope is to instead improve how VAR is used and smooth over its imperfections. Head coach Unai Emery has always been in favour of using technology, citing there “were a lot more mistakes” pre-VAR than there are now.

From a coaching standpoint, losing VAR would have a significant impact on how Emery sets Villa up defensively, having heavily relied on an extreme offside trap — the most successful of any side in Europe — to catch opponents out. This delicate relies on the tight calls falling their way.

Jacob Tanswell

Bournemouth fans sit at the other end of the scale; on average, every four out of five supporters want to see VAR ditched, with many believing they have suffered with tight decisions going against them due to the supposed inferior size of their club. Bournemouth were not awarded a penalty throughout last campaign’s entirety.

This season, head coach Andoni Iraola has said he sympathises with supporters’ frustration, stating that if VAR is going to take prolonged periods to make decisions, they should have full autonomy. If not, the process should be done quicker. Only last weekend, following Bournemouth’s 2-1 defeat against Brentford, Iraola questioned referee Matt Donohue after ruling out two first-half Dominic Solanke goals.

“We have been very affected by refereeing decisions,” said Iraola. With an 80 per cent majority, supporters feel VAR does little to aid on-pitch officials and has a detrimental impact on the game.

Jacob Tanswell

Brentford: 55%

Just over half of Brentford’s supporters want to scrap VAR and they will be thinking about a few decisions this season that have cost them. An incident in September’s 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United rankles the most. Goalkeeper Mark Flekken pulled out of a challenge on Anthony Gordon, yet the referee, backed up by VAR, awarded a penalty.
Mikkel Damsgaard’s stunning strike against Sheffield United was disallowed after Oli McBurnie clashed with Nathan Collins. Replays suggest McBurnie ran into Collins as opposed to being blocked.

Thomas Frank has generally been supportive of VAR though. Speaking on Thursday about VAR, Thomas Frank said: “I can’t see us going back. I think it’s there and it will be there for the future. I’ve said before, it’s not perfect. Hopefully it continues to be improved every season and I think the benefit of it is still to get clear mistakes out of the picture.”

He thinks there needs to be more dialogue between referees, managers and clubs to improve decision-making and how those decisions are communicated to the benches.

Jay Harris

Brighton & Hove Albion: 58%

“I think I have so many problems as a coach that I don’t want to say anything that isn’t my business,” said Roberto De Zerbi after Brighton’s defeat by Chelsea on Wednesday evening.

”Anyway, you speak about VAR, VAR, but we have to speak about the level of the referees, like the level of the coaches, because you speak a lot about the level of the coaches, the players, but behind VAR there are the people and we have to analyse the level of the referees, the people.”

De Zerbi has criticised English referees (Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

De Zerbi went on to criticise referee Michael Salisbury for his “control of the game”, but his refrain about VAR has been repeated by others in football — it’s not the system, it’s the people who use it. De Zerbi said earlier this season that he didn’t like “80 per cent of English referees”.

Brighton received three apologies from PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) last season and a majority of fans who responded to The Athletic’s survey feel that whoever is at fault, the system needs to be withdrawn from the Premier League.

The Athletic UK Staff

It is not a surprise a high proportion of Burnley’s supporters are in favour of scrapping VAR. Having enjoyed a Championship campaign without the technology, high-profile errors involving the technology have cost them valuable points.

There have been key decisions which have gone in the opposition’s favour — most notably against their relegation rivals Nottingham Forest and Luton Town, where they had a goal ruled out after review against the former and a foul not given which led to a goal against the latter.

Burnley are understood to be supportive of VAR but feel improvements to the system and process must be made to provide more consistency. Vincent Kompany has been vocal about his thoughts on the poor standard of officiating.

Either way, Burnley won’t get a vote because they will be without VAR when playing in the Championship.

Andy Jones

Chelsea: 53%

It is surprising more Chelsea supporters have not voted in favour of it being scrapped given how many high-profile decisions have gone against them of late.

The most costly of all was in the FA Cup semi-final defeat against Manchester City at Wembley when referee Michael Oliver failed to spot that Jack Grealish handled Cole Palmer’s free kick in the area. Remarkably, he did not even see the clear deflection to award a corner, yet VAR David Coote decided not to intervene over what looked like a strong penalty shout.

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino complained VAR was ‘damaging the image of English football’ after a late winner at Aston Villa was disallowed. The Argentine was not too enamoured following the victory at Brighton either when captain Reece James was sent off on review for violent conduct, but Tariq Lamptey escaped any punishment for giving Mykhailo Mudryk concussion.

Barely a game goes by without Chelsea fans singing a rather uncomplimentary song about it.

Simon Johnson

Palace’s vaguely pro-VAR stance is a slight surprise given, according to ESPN, only three clubs have had more reviews go against them. That said, few of those calls have been contentious. There may also be an element of recency bias in that Wolves had a penalty overturned against Oliver Gasner’s side last weekend which — had the on-field decision remained — would have ensured a very anxious finale.

There has been the odd grumble about Eberechi Eze not being given more penalties (he doesn’t always help his own cause with some theatrical tumbles, but he was denied a fairly obvious one at Molineux last weekend) and the usual complaints in the stadium about the length of time decisions take to be made. But it still ranks fairly low down Palace fans’ list of concerns.

The Athletic UK Staff

Sean Dyche has remained broadly in support of VAR, despite criticising elements of the process. Dyche has highlighted the amount of time it takes to reach decisions and said he believes VAR has intervened too often in games.

There has been frustration, at times, with key decisions that have gone against Everton this season, including Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s red card against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup that was subsequently rescinded.

As elsewhere, there is a general lack of faith from Everton supporters in the process, but it is not just about the technology. The fans forum wrote to PGMOL chief Howard Webb outlining concerns with what they saw as inconsistencies in how Everton’s games were being officiated.

Webb’s response did little to satisfy their concerns, which have been amplified after a season in which the club received two separate points deductions.

Patrick Boyland

The balanced vote reflects the give-and-take nature of Fulham’s VAR experience this season.

Sure, there have been blunders against Marco Silva’s side — Nathan Ake’s goal for Manchester City in September is the most glaring example — but there have been just as many moments when the VAR system has bailed them out — take the first penalty awarded to Fulham against Wolverhampton Wanderers in November.

Silva is never afraid to speak out against match officials — his rants after the defeats to Chelsea and Newcastle United were particularly heated — but he reserves most of his indignation for the on-pitch referees.

The Athletic UK Staff

I’m surprised that figure isn’t higher. Liverpool were on the receiving end of the biggest VAR blunder of the season away to Tottenham last September. Luis Diaz’s first-half goal was wrongly chalked off due to what PGMOL called “a significant human error”. Having seen a replay that showed Diaz was clearly onside, VAR Darren England told referee Simon Hooper “check complete” in the belief that he was upholding the on-field decision.

In fact, Diaz had been flagged offside and it needed to be overturned. As Hooper allowed Spurs to restart the game, he told his colleagues: “Well done boys, good process.” PMGOL subsequently apologised to Liverpool and changed their protocols, but it proved costly as Liverpool were beaten 2-1.

Diaz’s goal was wrongly given offside (Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

In December, there was more controversy when Martin Odegaard’s handball went unpunished during a 1-1 draw with Arsenal at Anfield. VAR David Coote decided not to advise referee Chris Kavanagh to watch the incident again on the pitchside monitor. Referees’ chief Howard Webb later admitted that a penalty should have been awarded.

Klopp was also raging in March. Michael Oliver waved away appeals for a penalty following a high challenge from Manchester City’s Jeremy Doku on Alexis Mac Allister deep into stoppage time. VAR Stuart Attwell didn’t get involved with the audio, revealing that he told Oliver “they both come in high… there’s clear contact on the ball by Doku… it’s a coming together”.

Klopp insisted: “For all football people, it’s a penalty.”

James Pearce

Luton Town: 82%

Luton Town fans are not looking forward to their imminent relegation from the Premier League. Why would they? One slight bonus, though, is VAR is not yet used in the Championship.

After paying out to install VAR ahead of their debut Premier League campaign, Luton fans wondered if it was even switched on during their first home game of the season against West Ham United. As they trailed 2-1 and pushed for an equaliser in stoppage time, the ball bounced off the hand of James Ward-Prowse in his own box. The on-field decision was not to award a penalty and VAR stuck with it.

The relationship between most Luton fans and VAR never really recovered from there, even if at times it came to their aid. The penalty awarded against Wolves in September, which was scored by Carlton Morris as Luton picked up their first point, was hugely controversial.

Luton will not get a vote, but a lot of supporters will tell you they did not look forward to VAR, never enjoyed it and will not miss it.

The Athletic UK Staff

Manchester City: 37%

City were involved in one of the first gut-wrenching moments of the VAR era, as Raheem Sterling’s last-minute winner in the Champions League against Tottenham was overturned for an offside in the build-up back in 2019. Since then, most moments of refereeing controversy involving Pep Guardiola’s side have concluded on the pitch, including Simon Hooper’s early whistle against the same opponents in December.

Jeremy Doku’s high-boot challenge on Alexis Mac Allister was another point of contention this season and one that went their way, but City fans’ apparent apathy towards scrapping VAR is probably more down to a feeling that, regardless of the officiating, their football continues to get the job done.

Thom Harris

You could argue that over the course of the season, United’s VAR calls have evened themselves out, which is likely why the vote is only marginally over 50 per cent in favour of getting rid of the technology.

They were fortunate on the opening day of the season to get away with a penalty shout involving Andre Onana, yet Erik ten Hag still bemoans the Alejandro Garnacho offside against Arsenal in September — even though Garnacho was offside.

Wolves, United

Onana clatters into Dawson (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Even on Wednesday night against Newcastle United, Sofyan Amrabat was fortunate not to give away a penalty for his foul on Anthony Gordon, so while United fans will be frustrated at some of the decisions, they won’t be able to complain too much.

“I don’t think there is a way back,” said manager Erik ten Hag on Thursday. “In principle, it makes football more fair but there are problems. We have to find solutions. We have to make improvements.”

Dan Sheldon

Newcastle United: 65%

Is this an emotional reaction from Newcastle fans to Anthony Gordon being denied what Eddie Howe referred to as a “stonewall penalty” at Old Trafford on Wednesday night?

Possibly, although it seems the majority of Newcastle supporters are fed up with the use of the technology and the delays it causes.

The ludicrous situation which unfolded against Arsenal in November — when Newcastle won 1-0 but VAR checked three separate incidents over a four-minute period before rightly allowing Gordon’s goal, only for Mikel Arteta to launch a ludicrous rant about the process — crystallised that view in many supporters’ mind.

Howe has never been an advocate and would only keep VAR for offsides, but clearly most people associated with Newcastle agree with Gordon: either significantly reform the system, or scrap it entirely.

Chris Waugh

Nottingham Forest: 76%

Nuno Espirito Santo is a fan of the concept behind VAR… but not so much of the manner in which it has been implemented. The Forest head coach believes VAR takes away responsibility from the man in the middle, who knows he has a fallback option to call upon.

“Referees are not taking decisions on the pitch,” he said. “When it came in I supported it, but maybe, one day not much ahead of us, we will say football was better before VAR because it’s been a mess.”

With the exception, perhaps, of Wolves, Forest have suffered as much as anyone over poor VAR decisions. An already long list of wrongs culminated in a farcical afternoon at Everton, where Forest had three clear penalty claims and were not given one.

The club even appointed former FIFA referee Mark Clattenburg in an advisory role to bring some clarity to the situation. He did not. Nuno, Neco Williams and the club all still face charges for their comments after the game at Goodison. They will just be happy it did not ultimately contribute to relegation from the Premier League.

Frankly, the only slight surprise is that more than 76% of Forest fans did not vote to get rid of VAR.

Paul Taylor

Sheffield United: 79%

As a relegated club, Sheffield United won’t be represented at the summer meeting to decide on VAR’s fate, but, as the above percentage in favour suggests, few tears will be shed by manager Chris Wilder or the club’s supporters at not being subjected to VAR in the Championship next term.

It’s not so much the arbitrary decisions or even the ‘toenail’ offsides, more the length of time it takes to complete these checks, such as the Will Osula goal at home to Brighton that still took more than a minute to confirm despite a defender and goalkeeper clearly standing between the young striker and the goal-line. Later, two lengthy VAR stoppages at home to Fulham contributed to almost 15 minutes of stoppage time having to be added.

Richard Sutcliffe

Tottenham Hotspur: 74%

Tottenham head coach Ange Postecoglou has been a vocal critic of VAR all season, but in a much more interesting, bigger-picture way than the normal manager-moaning-about-bad-decision dynamic. He has pointed out some of the knock-on effects of the technology — like the undermining of referees’ authority, the fact it makes playing relentless football harder because of the long stoppages, and the risk of injury after lengthy breaks.

Spurs, Chelsea

Romero exits, after a delay (Photo: Robin Jones/Getty Images)

Fans are generally in agreement with Postecoglou about the damaging effects of VAR. The home game against Chelsea in the season was filled with long checks and led to the dismissal of Cristian Romero, which many fans felt was harsh. Micky van de Ven also injured his hamstring in that game after one of the long delays. And while Spurs were big beneficiaries of the biggest VAR error yet against Liverpool in September, some supporters feel they’ve been on the wrong end of 50-50 decisions ever since.

Charlie Eccleshare

West Ham United: 62%

Many times this season, manager David Moyes has been cautious with his choice of words when lamenting his lack of luck with VAR.

Examples include the 1-1 draw against Aston Villa with West Ham having two goals ruled out for handball, penalty appeals turned down in the 2-2 draw against Aston Villa, and the 1-0 loss to Freiburg in the Europa League.

Against Aston Villa it took the longest VAR check in Premier League history (five minutes and 37 seconds) to see West Ham denied a late winner. Another example is the 2-2 draw against Sheffield United in January following Anel Ahmedhodzic’s foul on Jarrod Bowen, which VAR did not deem worthy of a penalty.

PGMOL released VAR audio of the incident and the officials agreed there was “something and nothing in there. Absolutely fine”.

No surprise 62 per cent of supporters want VAR scrapped.

Roshane Thomas

Wolves: 90%

Nine out of 10 Wolves fans back the club’s bid to get VAR jettisoned and Wolves have suffered more than most from poor decisions that VAR has failed to overturn.

The highest-profile incident was probably Andre Onana’s unpunished barge on Sasa Kalajdzic in the opening game of this season. There have been many more.

But the anger among Wolves supporters has become about more than just a lack of accuracy — it is about how the presence of the system affects the matchday experience.

“Boring, boring, boring” and “we want our football back” are two of the kinder songs that have been heard from home fans at Molineux in recent months.

Steve Madeley

Ipswich Town: 80%

Ipswich’s 22-year Premier League absence means they have no experience with VAR, with Portman Road a previously VAR monitor-less place.

Their promotion was characterised by dramatic last-gasp goals; from Omari Hutchinson’s 95th-minute winner against Rotherham United to Jeremy Sarmiento’s 97th-minute toe poke against Southampton. Ipswich fans are accustomed to celebrating these moments wildly and unencumbered, which the introduction of VAR would likely stunt.

Officiating decisions also rarely dominated the post-match discourse. April’s win over Blackburn Rovers saw Ipswich not awarded a penalty and a Blackburn goal disallowed for offside. Both decisions would likely have been overruled had VAR been in place. This game sums up the sentiment; sometimes the decisions fall in your favour, sometimes they don’t, and 80 per cent of Ipswich fans would be happy if it stayed that way.

The Athletic UK Staff

Leicester City: 74%

Leicester fans have had a year without VAR in the Championship and while there weren’t too many positives about relegation, it seems three-quarters of the fanbase have been able to enjoy VAR-free games, especially the moment of celebration when a Leicester goal was scored.

It took a few weeks for fans to detox from VAR, to be back in the moment and celebrate rather than a pause before the realisation that if the referee pointed to the centre spot, it was definitely a goal.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t controversial moments or that the officiating was better, and it certainly doesn’t mean they got all the decisions right, but it seems fans are more forgiving of genuine, in-the-moment mistakes, rather than long drawn-out checks that still ended in controversy.

Rob Tanner

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