Premier League to consider “bit of tolerance” with offsides after VAR criticism

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has questioned whether there might be a need to “build in a bit of tolerance” in the offside rule.

A YouGov poll on Tuesday found that 67 percent of football fans surveyed felt that the introduction of VAR had made the Premier League less enjoyable, with the system given an average performance rating of four out of 10.

The poll found that 74 percent were in favour of VAR being kept, but modified.

Masters said on Tuesday that VAR is here to stay in the Premier League but accepts there are tweaks to be made—and referred to some of the marginal offside calls which have led to goals being disallowed this season.

He said: “I think offsides is one [area that could be tweaked] and whether you want offsides that are precise to the armpit or the heel, or whether you want to build in a bit of tolerance. That is sort of a technical challenge.

“We are in constant dialogue with [football’s law-making body] IFAB about [VAR]—and about the way the Premier League does it versus everyone else and what we can learn from other leagues.”

Aleksander Ceferin, the president of European football’s governing body UEFA, has talked previously about the need to introduce a “10 to 20 centimetre tolerance” on offsides, adding: “If you have a long nose, you are offside these days.”

The secretary of IFAB, Lukas Brud, told the PA news agency in December that “there should not be a lot of time spent to find something marginal” and added: “If something is not clear on the first sight, then it’s not obvious and it shouldn’t be considered.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 19, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson complains to the assistant referee during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Masters said that YouGov’s findings generally tallied with the league’s own research into fans’ perceptions of VAR, which is due to be relayed to the clubs at Thursday’s shareholders’ meeting.

“The majority of football fans actually want VAR to be a success and wanted it to come in,” he said.

“There is obviously the other part of VAR which is consistent decision-making, the time to take decisions, frustration perhaps with the precision offsides and whether you like that or don’t, the jury is out on that.

“When we get to April there will be a bigger conversation about what sort of VAR clubs want to have in the Premier League next season. I think it’s here to stay and certainly it’s going to be with us next season.”

Eighty percent of the YouGov respondents wanted referees to have the final say on decisions by looking at the pitchside monitors.

The guidance, except if the VAR has recommended changing a red card decision, has been for the referees to use the monitors sparingly.

“The right decision has to be made but also it has to be balanced off against the potential increase in delay,” Masters said.

“And that is not necessarily a straightforward decision. So all these things are coming up. The clubs will have their view, we will have our view, [referees’ chief] Mike Riley will have his view and we will come together and decide what is best.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 5, 2019: VAR checks an injury time penalty awarded to Liverpool during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1.(Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Masters was also asked about whether VAR had taken some of the passion out of the game, particularly around celebrating a goal.

“I don’t think you can have VAR without acknowledging that is going to happen,” he said.

“In essence, if you have all goals reviewed, you know VAR is going to deliver a slightly different experience. The question for the competition and the clubs is whether that trade-off is worth it?”