Howard Webb urges VAR officials to challenge referees but defends Newcastle-Arsenal decisions

Premier League referees’ chief Howard Webb wants VAR officials to be more proactive in challenging their on-field colleagues if they feel a major error has been made.

PGMOL, the body responsible for referees in English football, issued the instruction after Newcastle were awarded a controversial penalty against Wolverhampton Wanderers last month.

Fabian Schar collapsed in the area following a challenge by Hwang-Hee Chan, but despite replays suggesting minimal or no contact, referee Anthony Taylor’s on-field decision of penalty was allowed to stand after footage was studied by the VAR.

Webb, speaking on Mic’d Up on Sky Sports News, admitted that was the wrong decision and now wants VAR officials to interrogate on-field referees to make sure what they have seen corresponds with TV footage.

“We’re asking the VARs, going forward, to have a look at it and if they don’t like the decision on the field, ask the referee what they saw and if it’s significantly different to what’s been shown on the video, then recommend a review so that the referee can go to the screen and look at it again for himself,” Webb said.

“We don’t want too much interference. But recognising those clear situations is important. This situation (at Wolves) meets the threshold and that’s the advice that we have given our VARs moving forward.”

However, Webb defended the decision to allow Newcastle’s goal against Arsenal on November 4 to stand after footage of the audio between the match officials was released on the show.

Gordon scored from point-blank range to give Newcastle the lead, but a VAR review swiftly followed.

Initially, it appeared the focus was whether the ball had gone out of play in the build-up. Jacob Murphy’s cross-shot was picked up by Joe Willock near the corner flag. He sent in a cross that eventually led to the goal.

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) Andy Madley then reviewed whether there had been a foul on Arsenal defender Gabriel by Joelinton as the duo competed in the air to challenge for Willock’s cross, with the rebound dropping at the feet of Gordon, who scored.

A third incident was also examined to determine whether Gordon was standing in an offside position. Subsequently, VAR decided that this could not be proven and the goal was awarded, much to the fury of Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, who branded the decision “a disgrace”.

Webb said: “An unusual situation with three aspects for the VAR to check whether the on-field decision of goal should be overturned. We see the ball getting very close to the goal line.

“Don’t forget we have an assistant referee who is right in line, the ball hasn’t got a lot of pace as it goes to the goal line so he’s looking right down the line, better than any of our cameras. “And we know the ball’s curved so it can be overhanging the line. We need evidence that it’s out and we don’t have that here.

“Joelinton then challenges Gabriel. It could be a foul, the VAR decides that the evidence from the footage isn’t clear enough to intervene for a clear error. The talk that we’ve seen after and the opinion that it’s split, suggest that it’s the correct non-intervention because of the subjectivity.

“Then you have one of those unusual situations where the ball goes between two players and trying to identify exactly when the ball leaves Joelinton is really difficult to establish because the players are so close together.

“So again, no conclusive evidence that Gordon was offside when the ball was touched to him. The VAR went through that diligently and identified no clear evidence to intervene to overturn the goal. So the process was correct.”

VAR checking Anthony Gordon goal

Who were the officials?

  • Referee — Stuart Attwell
  • Assistants — Richard West, James Mainwaring
  • VAR — Andy Madley
  • Assistant VAR — Stuart Burt
  • Fourth official — Graham Scott

What did Mikel Arteta say about it at the time?

After the decision to award Newcastle’s goal, Mikel Arteta said he felt “embarrassed” and labelled the outcome “a disgrace”. He did not clarify what part of the goal he took issue with.

“We have to talk about the result because you have to talk about how the hell this goal stands up and it’s incredible,” he said.

“I feel embarrassed but I have to be the one now coming here to try to defend the club and please ask for help, because it’s an absolute disgrace that this goal is allowed, an absolute disgrace.

“Again, I feel embarrassed having more than 20 years in this country, and this is nowhere near the level to describe this as the best league in the world. I am sorry.”

Mikel Arteta at Newcastle

Pressed on whether he thought Arsenal would get an apology from PGMOL, the body responsible for referees in English football, he added: “OK, I have to stand here now and explain, we lose three points today. Guys you know what that means? It’s too hard, this league, it’s too hard, it’s too much at stake, it’s embarrassing.”

The following day, Arsenal released a statement supporting Arteta and called on PGMOL to “urgently address the standard of officiating” in the Premier League.

Earlier this month, the Football Association (FA) contacted Arteta and Arsenal requesting their observations in relation to the post-match comments made.



FA asks Arteta and Arsenal for observations after referee comments

Newcastle vs Arsenal — PGMOL’s full transcript

PGMOL have released the following transcript via Premier League Productions in a broadcast on Tuesday evening.

For clarity, The Athletic has added notes below in italics to explain how the game is unfolding during the audio recording.

In the 64th minute, Joe Willock crosses for Joelinton, with the ball eventually falling to Anthony Gordon who scored from close range.

AR1: Staying in, staying in! Still in, still in!

VAR: Potential ball out of play.

Gordon scores and celebrates.

VAR: Stu, (referee Stuart Atwell) can you confirm your on-field decision, please?

Atwell: Mads, (VAR Andy Madley) on-field decision is a goal. The ask on the pitch is if the ball is out of play on the goal line, and Burty (AVAR Stuart Burty), normal contact on the challenge on the back post.

VAR: Stu (referee Stuart Atwell), can you have a look at this as well before we go check the goal? For me, I have got no conclusive evidence that the ball is out.

AVAR: I agree. You can’t go on that angle. Although it looks like its out, you’ve got the curvature of the ball. Now, you’ve got the challenge at the back post.

VAR: Looking for an offside position first of all. No offside position. Now a check for a potential foul on Gabriel. I don’t see a specific foul on Gabriel. I see two hands on his back but I don’t see anything of a push that warrants him flying forward like that. We just need to check that he is in an onside position then.

AVAR: I don’t know where the ball is because the ball is being hidden by Joelinton here. You’ve got no conclusive evidence of (Anthony) Gordon being ahead of the ball. In my opinion, I think you have to award the goal.

VAR: Stu (referee Stuart Atwell), we are confirming the on-field decision of goal.



Explained: ‘A disgrace’ – Gordon’s controversial winner for Newcastle vs Arsenal

(Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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