Premier League Clubs to Vote on Abolishing VAR: Fans and Managers Weigh In

Premier League Clubs to Vote on VAR’s Future

by Faruk Imamovic
Premier League Clubs to Vote on Abolishing VAR: Fans and Managers Weigh In
© Getty Images/Ryan Pierse

Next month, Premier League clubs will gather for their annual general meeting to vote on a proposal that could reshape English football. The Athletic has revealed that clubs are set to vote on whether to abolish the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, which has been a contentious fixture since its introduction in 2019. The proposal, submitted by Wolverhampton Wanderers, aims to remove VAR from the Premier League starting next season.

The Case for Scrapping VAR

The introduction of VAR aimed to enhance decision-making in football, but it has been marred by controversy and frustration among fans, players, and managers alike. Bournemouth fans, for instance, overwhelmingly support the removal of VAR, with 80% expressing dissatisfaction. Head coach Andoni Iraola echoed their sentiments, criticizing the lengthy decision-making process and its inconsistency. Iraola's frustrations were highlighted after a recent match against Brentford, where two of Dominic Solanke’s goals were controversially disallowed.

Burnley supporters, having experienced a season without VAR in the Championship, largely favor its removal. A significant 74% of Burnley fans believe that high-profile errors involving VAR have cost them valuable points, and manager Vincent Kompany has been vocal about the need for more consistent officiating.

Nottingham Forest's fans and management share a similar sentiment. A substantial 76% of their supporters want VAR abolished, reflecting head coach Nuno Espirito Santo’s view that VAR undermines on-field referees. Forest's frustrations peaked during a game against Everton, where multiple clear penalty claims were overlooked, prompting the club to seek clarity from former FIFA referee Mark Clattenburg, albeit unsuccessfully.

Mixed Reactions Across Clubs

The opinion on VAR is not unanimous across the Premier League. Aston Villa fans, with 38% in favor of scrapping VAR, hope for improvements in its application rather than its removal. Head coach Unai Emery supports the use of technology, noting fewer mistakes with VAR compared to the pre-VAR era. Emery’s defensive strategies heavily rely on the precise offside decisions VAR provides, which has contributed to Aston Villa's defensive success.

Similarly, Brighton & Hove Albion fans are divided, with 58% supporting VAR's removal. Manager Roberto De Zerbi has criticized the level of refereeing rather than the technology itself, suggesting that the system's faults lie with its operators. Brighton received three apologies from the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) last season, highlighting the issues in the current officiating standards.

Liverpool, a club that experienced one of the most significant VAR blunders of the season, has 58% of its fans supporting the removal of VAR. The controversy peaked during a match against Tottenham, where a goal by Luis Diaz was wrongly disallowed due to a "significant human error." The incident prompted changes in VAR protocols but left a lasting impact on the club and its supporters.

A scrap VAR sticker is seen on a lamp post outside the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Aston Villa
A scrap VAR sticker is seen on a lamp post outside the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Aston Villa© Getty Images/Alex Davidson

Support for Keeping VAR

Despite the widespread criticism, some clubs and their fans support retaining VAR, albeit with improvements. Brentford's manager Thomas Frank, for example, acknowledges VAR's imperfections but believes in its potential to eliminate clear mistakes from the game. He advocates for more dialogue between referees, managers, and clubs to enhance decision-making processes and communication.

Manchester United fans show a slight preference for keeping VAR, with 55% supporting its retention. Manager Erik ten Hag believes that, while VAR is not perfect, it makes football fairer. He emphasizes the need for continuous improvements to address the system's flaws.

Manchester City's fanbase exhibits the least support for scrapping VAR, with only 37% in favor. City has experienced both positive and negative outcomes from VAR decisions, but the overall sentiment is that their football prowess often mitigates the impact of officiating errors.

The Upcoming Vote and Potential Changes

The Premier League’s decision on VAR's future hinges on a two-thirds majority vote at the meeting in Harrogate on June 6. With varying opinions across clubs, the outcome is uncertain. Clubs like Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bournemouth, and Nottingham Forest are leading the charge against VAR, citing its detrimental impact on the game and the inconsistency of decisions.

Should the vote pass, it would mark a significant shift in English football, reverting to pre-2019 officiating methods. However, many managers and fans argue for refining the system rather than abandoning it altogether. The debate underscores the complexities of integrating technology into sports and the ongoing challenge of balancing fairness, accuracy, and the essence of the game.

Perspectives from the Fans

Arsenal's relatively low 40% support for scrapping VAR might surprise some, considering their frustrations with the system during key matches. Fans seem to recognize that the problem lies more with the implementation and officials rather than the technology itself. Arsenal's international fanbase, accustomed to video technology in other sports, might also influence this perspective.

Chelsea supporters show a moderate 53% in favor of removing VAR, driven by several high-profile decisions that went against them. Incidents such as the FA Cup semi-final controversy against Manchester City have fueled dissatisfaction among fans, though head coach Mauricio Pochettino remains critical of the system's impact on the sport's image.

Crystal Palace, Everton, and Fulham show nearly balanced views on VAR, reflecting the mixed experiences these clubs have had with the technology. The varying levels of satisfaction and frustration among these fanbases highlight the broader debate on whether VAR has ultimately improved or hindered the game.

Premier League