Premier League clubs to vote on scrapping VAR next month

Wolverhampton Wanderers have lodged a motion to scrap the use of VAR in the Premier League, with a vote to be held at next month’s meeting of the 20 clubs.

Wolves will need the backing of 13 other clubs at the annual general meeting June 6 to pass the resolution, which would see the video assistant referee removed from the English top flight with immediate effect. Any club has the right to submit an item to the agenda, with the league operated as a democracy.

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A statement issued by Wolves on Wednesday read: “There is no blame to be placed. We are all just looking for the best possible outcome for football and all stakeholders have been working hard to try and make the introduction of additional technology a success.

“However, after five seasons of VAR in the Premier League, it is time for a constructive and critical debate on its future.

“Our position is that the price we are paying for a small increase in accuracy is at odds with the spirit of our game, and as a result we should remove it from the 2024/25 season onwards.”

Wolves listed a number of complaints in its resolution:

– Impact on goal celebrations and the spontaneous passion that makes football special

– Frustration and confusion inside stadiums due to lengthy VAR checks and poor communication

– A more hostile atmosphere with protests, booing of the Premier League anthem and chants against VAR

– Overreach of VAR’s original purpose to correct clear and obvious mistakes, now overanalysing subjective decisions and compromising the game’s fluidity and integrity

– Diminished accountability of on-field officials, due to the safety net of VAR, leading to an erosion of authority on the pitch

– Continued errors despite VAR, with supporters unable to accept human error after multiple views and replays, damaging confidence in officiating standards

– Disruption of the Premier League’s fast pace with lengthy VAR checks and more added time, causing matches to run excessively long

– Constant discourse about VAR decisions often overshadowing the match itself, and tarnishing the reputation of the league

– Erosion of trust and reputation, with VAR fuelling completely nonsensical allegations of corruption

Wolves have been by far the worst affected through VAR, with more decisions against them than any other club since it was introduced in 2019-20. Wolves have a net score on VAR overturns of minus-17 decisions, with the next worst-affected club being Arsenal on minus-7.

This season, Wolves have suffered continued frustrations, starting with the VAR’s failure to award them a stoppage-time penalty at Manchester United — which led to the officials being stood down.

Yet Wolves have only suffered two other mistakes, as judged by the Premier League’s Independent Key Match Incidents Panel — the failure to overturn penalties awarded to Newcastle United and Sheffield United. All three mistakes against Wolves have been as a result of incorrect on-field decisions, rather than wrong interventions.

The Premier League is against the motion and will press clubs to continue with VAR as an evolving part of the game.

“The Premier League can confirm it will facilitate a discussion on VAR with our clubs at the annual general meeting next month,” a statement read. “Clubs are entitled to put forward proposals at shareholders’ meetings and we acknowledge the concerns and issues around the use of VAR.

“However, the league fully supports the use of VAR and remains committed, alongside PGMOL, to make continued improvements to the system for the benefit of the game and fans.”

Earlier this season Tony Scholes, the league’s chief football officer, said that there were “too many checks” that are “taking too long” but that it was fully committed to VAR.

The motion comes just a month after the 20 Premier League clubs voted to introduce semiautomated VAR offside next season, which involves a contract with a new technology supplier. Clubs are also expected to approve referees announcing the explanation for a VAR decision — if VAR is still around.

ESPN has learned the accuracy of key match decisions has increased from 82% pre-VAR to 96% this season. PGMOL and the Premier League will also point to improvement in VAR numbers this season, despite a series of high-profile controversies. At this stage last season there had been 38 VAR errors logged by the independent panel, with the number for 2023-24 at 29 — an improvement of 23.68%.

The Premier League isn’t the first league to face a vote on the future of VAR. In January, Ligue 1 club Brest officially lodged a complaint with the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) for VAR to be removed from French football. The LFP dismissed Brest’s request, and VAR will be added to Ligue 2 next season.

It means from 2024-25, VAR will be in the second tier below all of Europe’s top five leagues — apart from England. Last month, Sweden became the only league in UEFA’s top 30 to reject VAR, when its fan-owned clubs lodged opposition against its introduction.