VAR audio of Everton vs. Forest penalty farce reveals more issues with referees

PGMOL have released the audio of VAR conversations around the ridiculous decision to deny Nottingham Forest one of three penalties against Everton.

Forest embroiled themselves in controversy following their 2-0 defeat to Everton last month, with an inflammatory statement over VAR Stuart Attwell.

The Nottingham club, who have employed former official Mark Clattenburg as referee analyst, blasted “three extremely poor decisions” to deny penalties – all involving Everton‘s Ashley Young.

“We warned the PGMOL that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him,” Forest claimed, before insisting the club would “consider its options.”

It was far from the correct approach, but referees’ chief Howard Webb has now admitted one of the three penalties should have been given.

Speaking on Sky Sports’ Match Officials Mic’d Up, Webb argued that two of the decisions were “subjective” but the third, with Young clearly fouling Callum Hudson-Odoi as the Forest winger won the ball in the box, should have been given.

PGMOL released the audio of conversations between referee Anthony Taylor and VAR Attwell, which only further highlights the Premier League‘s growing problem with officials.

Referee (Anthony Taylor): “He plays the ball, he plays the ball, he plays the ball!”

Assistant referee: “Ball for me.”

VAR (Stuart Attwell): “Checking possible penalty, standby.”

Referee: “Looks like he plays the ball!”

VAR: “OK, so they come together. There’s mutual engagement between them before the playing of the ball, but it’s more of a tussle.

VAR: “Longy (assistant VAR Simon Long) what I’m seeing here is no clear action by the defender.

VAR: “Tayls, confirm on-field decision of play on. Check is complete.

VAR: “Both players tussling for the ball. There’s a degree of normal contact as they both play the ball in the same space.

Referee: “Thank you.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 26, 2023: Referee Stuart Attwell during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Chelsea FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Tottenham won 2-0. (Pic by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

There was more calm and professionalism involved than during the chaos that led to Luis Diaz‘s legitimate goal being chalked off against Tottenham.

But that Attwell and VAR assistant Simon Long were unable to spot between them that Young had taken Hudson-Odoi out from behind, with the benefit of multiple slo-motion replays, is a worry.

Similarly concerning was that Taylor was immediately and vocally adamant that Young “plays the ball,” given the incident was far from clear in real time.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 27, 2024: Referee Anthony Taylor (L) and West Ham United's goalkeeper Alphonse Areola during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Taylor, of course, was involved in a remarkable decision during Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with West Ham on Saturday, with his insistence that Cody Gakpo stop charging down a loose ball to score a call VAR could not intervene on.

READ: Anthony Taylor AVOIDS punishment for Gakpo farce – will ref this weekend

Webb spoke calmly as he assessed the situation at Everton, explaining that PGMOL “would have preferred” Taylor to be sent to the pitchside monitor.

But it has become increasingly clear throughout this season that PGMOL need a more thorough review of their standards ahead of next season, as the level of refereeing and VAR errors is alarmingly unacceptable.