Three officials heavily involved in decisions in Liverpool’s 2-1 loss at Tottenham were on duty at a game in the UAE just two days beforehand.
What was billed as one of the most anticipated clashes in this season’s Premier League ended up being overshadowed by those appointed to referee it.
Referee Simon Hooper made a number of baffling calls, while VAR Darren England and his assistant Dan Cook failed to communicate that Luis Diaz‘s goal, deemed offside, was legitimate.
England and Cook have been stood down from their duties for two further games this weekend, though Hooper is yet to receive punishment.
The uproar surrounding Saturday’s game has stretched beyond Merseyside, with the level of failings from England and Cook in particularly a concern for all involved in the Premier League.
It should be of note, then, that both England (pictured) and Cook were flown out to the United Arab Emirates to serve as VAR and assistant referee for a match on Thursday.
Also involved in that game was Michael Oliver, fourth official on Saturday, who refereed the clash between Sharjah and Al Ain on Thursday.
The clash, a 5pm kickoff UK time, ended in a 3-2 victory for Al Ain, who remained top of the UAE Pro League with four wins from four.
While it is not uncommon for English referees to be involved in high-profile matches overseas, the fallout of Liverpool’s defeat at Spurs certainly calls it into question.
Full-time at the Sharjah Stadium was around 7pm BST, with the officials then required to travel seven-and-a-half hours back to the UK and prepare for their day jobs.
Oliver, England, Cook and Stuart Burt, who also operated as assistant referee in the UAE, were all on duty for Saturday games in the Premier League.
Burt was assistant VAR for West Ham‘s 2-0 win over Sheffield United, while Oliver (fourth official), England (VAR) and Cook (assistant VAR) were appointed to support Hooper in Tottenham vs. Liverpool.
Such a tight turnaround between duties in the UAE and back in England should be considered a conflict of interest for PGMOL, the English referees’ group.
That is particularly the case given the monumental error in denying Diaz’s goal which, if you believe PGMOL, came with both England and Cook failing to communicate the check they were making.
It is claimed that those in the VAR booth believed they were checking to confirm that the Liverpool winger was onside, when it fact it was an offside check.
Hooper was told “check complete” and the game went on with Tottenham taking a quick free-kick and the score still 0-0, with the officials no longer able to call it back.