MATCHDAY PROGRAMME

Referee chief refuses to ban controversial policy after Diaz VAR chaos

Referee chief Howard Webb has agreed to allow officials to continue a controversial practice that was highlighted after the Tottenham vs. Liverpool VAR debacle.

After Luis Diaz‘s goal was incorrectly ruled offside against Tottenham, it came to light that the VAR on the day, Darren England, had worked in the United Arab Emirates just 48 hours beforehand.

Amid criticism that this could be affecting their Premier League officiating, the FA and PGMOL agreed to review the rules.

The Telegraph reports that this policy remains unchanged despite scrutiny.

The newspaper reports Webb said there was “no link” between England’s trip to the UAE and the mistakes seen between Liverpool and Tottenham.

Darren England has been stood down by PGMOL along with Dan Cook after an error in the Tottenham-Liverpool match (Richard Sellers/AP)

The former referee has said though that “nobody’s been out to” referee outside UEFA since, explaining: “Each request will be evaluated on its own merits.

“But we’ll only consider an approach from an overseas national federation on the condition it provides a development opportunity for the officials and that it has no impact at all on their availability to serve the leagues we exist to serve.

“Any such request would need to be approved by the PGMOL board. That’s our position.”

Moonlighting in the Middle East provokes obvious discussions about whether it is what’s best for the Premier League.

Michel Oliver, England, Dan Cook and Stuart Burt, among others, are all officials who have returned home on Friday morning from the UAE, needing to be ready for domestic fixtures just over 24 hours later.

There is also the issue of Man City‘s ownership. It begs the question of whether Premier League referees going to work in the UAE, whose Deputy Prime Minister is Man City owner Sheikh Mansour, could be deemed a conflict of interest.

This isn’t to suggest officials are being paid off, but it does give conspiracists the opportunity to accuse the PGMOL of corruption.

It is something everybody could do without, so for Webb to continue to allow the freelancing is probably not best practice.

Good process.