Wednesday 30th October 2019
On Tuesday the AST attended a meeting with the Premier League alongside other Supporters’ Trusts and the Football Supporters Association (FSA). There was discussion on a range of important topics including the scheduling of fixtures and the possible creation of a European Super League. However the topical and pressing issue was VAR.
The AST put it to the Premier League that the current implementation of VAR is totally unsatisfactory for the match going fan. This view was endorsed by all of the other Trusts present.
We explained that many of our members have given us feedback that they feel treated like second class supporters when a VAR review takes place. To date no VAR review at the Emirates has been shown on the big screens including after two reversals of decisions in the game versus Crystal Palace on Sunday.
It was the unanimous view of the supporter groups in the meeting room that whatever system of VAR is applied that the match going fan must be fully informed about all decision-making. It is unacceptable that those who pay to attend a match conclude that the experience is worse than watching at home.
A constructive discussion took place with Premier League executives who stressed to us that they recognised our concerns and that they place a great importance on the experience fans have when they attend a game. They committed to putting these concerns into their on-going operational review of VAR and also said they would raise this issue in the next meeting Premier League meeting of clubs.
We were also advised that each club is responsible for how VAR reviews are communicated within their own grounds subject to certain protocols and it was suggested that supporter groups discuss directly with their own clubs how they were communicating VAR decisions.
The protocols on how VAR should be communicated to fans are set out here https://www.premierleague.com/news/1293250. It says “In stadiums with big screens, if the VAR has been involved in changing a decision from the on-field referee, they may broadcast definitive video clips to help explain what has happened”. This has not happened at the Emirates to date.
Further to this meeting the AST followed up on the VAR experience at the Emirates with Arsenal and are pleased that the Club responded immediately to say that they recognise the importance of getting this right and are committed to delivering as good an experience as possible to supporters at the Emirates within the confines of the existing VAR protocols. We stressed to them the importance of using the big screens to convey decisions that are being made.
Arsenal also said they would raise our concerns about the need for an improvement in the VAR protocols for communication with supporters at their future meetings with the Premier League when the VAR system is reviewed. It is our view that all VAR decision making should be communicated to supporters in the ground using audio and video information.
The AST welcomes feedback from its members on this issue and will continue to feed that in to the relevant authorities.
We will also conduct a survey on VAR later into the season that will include wider consideration of whether going forward there should be VAR at all; and if there is what VAR system should be used. This will be to feed into a more structural review the Premier League will undertake for next season.
At present we wanted to focus on the pressing issue that whatever VAR is used it should be better explained to match going fans.
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