Football fans finally got a glimpse behind the curtain at Stockley Park after PGMOL chief Howard Webb showed riveting audio footage of VAR officials helping to overturn Newcastle’s penalty against Arsenal earlier this month.
The Magpies were awarded an early penalty against the Gunners in their clash at St James’ Park on May 7 which saw Gunners defender Jakub Kiwior penalized for handling the ball inside the box.
But a VAR check has concluded that referee Chris Kavanagh’s initial appeal to award a kick should be overturned, leaving Newcastle fans – including Alan Shearer – furious at the appeal.
Now, for the first time in Premier League history, conversations between VAR and the on-field referee have come to light as Webb lifted the lid on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
Seconds after the penalty was awarded, Kavanagh’s microphone can pick up Arsenal full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko demanding an offside for Kieran Trippier in the build-up to check.
REVEALED! Audio of officials and VAR when a decision to award Newcastle a penalty against Arsenal was overturned ¿¿ pic.twitter.com/1r2G41NxhY
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 15, 2023
Viewers received never-before-seen audio clips of VAR talking to the referee on the pitch
Fans were able to listen to conversations between VAR and the referee on contentious appeals
Howard Webb took to Sky Sports to lift the curtain and show the process behind VAR
As Newcastle’s corner is taken, VAR officials can be heard recounting possible infractions before being in constant dialogue with the referee on the pitch.
“Kav, we’ll just check the penalty for you,” VAR manager Michael Salisbury can be heard.
Salisbury and his VAR assistant Scott Ledger discuss the call and wonder if the ball hit Kiwior’s thigh first, rather than his arm.
After looking at several angles, the Stockley Park team came to the conclusion that the ball did in fact hit the Arsenal defender’s leg before hitting the arm, meaning the penalty should be waived.
Salisbury says, “So the arm is to me in a natural position for the action it is doing. The ball comes out of the thigh and then makes a move in that arm. I don’t think it should be a penalty.
Ledger agrees, adding: ‘I agree mate. He touched his thigh and he also retracts his arm, so I agree, it’s not a penalty.
After confirming Trippier was part of the build-up, VAR officials recommend Kavanagh take a look on the pitch-side monitor for himself.
“Chris, this is Michel. I will recommend an on-field review to review the sanction you have given. Can you please let me know when you are at the monitor.
While talking about Kavanagh through their reflection, the match official agrees with the assessment before reversing his original decision.
Fans had never been able to hear the conversations between officials before, but Webb was happy to change that on Monday night and even explained some of the unique terminology they use.
Newcastle received an early penalty before the decision was overturned this month
VAR officials took a few minutes to confirm the ball hit the thigh before the arm
Referee Chris Kavanagh has been instructed by VAR to have another look at the pitchside incident
“You will hear some voices. Officials on the pitch, the referee, assistant referees and the fourth official. They make the decision, the decision on the field. Then the VAR and VAR assistant will also be heard. These are the people who verify these big key incidents,’ Webb said as he released the clips.
“They are also assisted by a replay operator, a technician, who gives officials the angles they need to make those important calls as to whether or not they are stepping in because a clear and obvious error has been identified or No.”
On a number of clips, the officials could be heard shouting ‘APP’, and Webb explained, “It means attacking the possession phase or attacking the play phase. It’s the play phase of the start of the attack which leads to the incident which is reviewable.
“It could be a penalty or a red card for DOGSO (Denial of a goalscoring opportunity) or a goal, of course.”
PGMOL issued several apologies to individual clubs during the season, and Webb was asked if this set a dangerous precedent.
Webb, who refereed in the Premier League himself between 2003 and 2014, insisted he was happy to acknowledge mistakes and assured viewers he would be happy to return to Monday Night Football to explain future controversial decisions.
The decision was overturned by the official on the pitch after discussing it with VAR
“We are committed to having a lot of dialogue with the clubs and I have had a lot of open conversations and acknowledged certain incidents to them, most in private and a few publicly. We will publicly acknowledge them on occasion,” Webb said.
“We want people to understand how good our officials are and to see the process and the rationale.
“We can’t play it (audio) live in the game, we can’t according to the laws of the game, but there’s nothing stopping us from doing like we’re doing tonight and doing it later.
“We’ve tried to show a range of situations and in the future we’re looking to do more of the same.”