Wolves set to fail in bid to scrap Premier League VAR

"The support for the introduction of VAR originally has collapsed and 80% of fans now say the experience is poor or very poor, so we cannot go on with this as we are."

Premier League clubs are unlikely to vote through Wolves’ proposal to scrap the use of the video assistant referee when member clubs meet at an annual general meeting on Thursday, 6 June, but in-game VAR announcements are set to be introduced.

Wolves formally submitted a resolution to the Premier League in May, which triggered a vote on retaining the use of VAR.

However, while Wolves stand by their decision to raise the issues after a string of decisions went against them last season, it is thought the club have little chance of getting the 14 votes needed for their proposal to be accepted.

BBC Sport understands Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham are among clubs who want to keep VAR, but are demanding that improvements are made.

One other Premier League club has said the VAR system at the moment “isn’t working” and there “clearly are issues” with the system.

While Wolves’ proposal is set for defeat, most clubs believe the current situation needs a major overhaul and Howard Webb, head of refereeing body PGMOL, has said changes to VAR are being looked at.

One expected change is the use of in-game VAR announcements from referees, which the Premier League is likely to trial from next season.

World governing body Fifa introduced the trials at a number of its competitions last year and confirmed this would be extended after positive feedback.

Although the match referee will only be confirming decisions after they have been made and no discussions involving the VAR will be heard, the Premier League view the concept as a step forward.

It is in line with the drive for greater transparency from Webb, who defended the standard of refereeing in April.

The Premier League is confident the introduction of semi-automated offsides at some point in the autumn, after the 2024-25 season has started, will help speed up decisions, although the time taken to award Olympiakos’ winning goal in the Uefa Conference League last week underlined not all decisions are reached quickly with the system.

It is understood Webb and the Premier League would like to go further but are constrained by current regulations set by the game’s lawmaking body, the International Football Association Board.


VAR debate ‘essential’ – Fan group


Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters Association, told BBC Sport the majority of their members are now opposed to VAR.

“The support for the introduction of VAR originally has collapsed and 80% of fans now say the experience is poor or very poor, so we cannot go on with this as we are,” he said.

Clarke said there should be a “national debate” on the use of VAR and asked the Premier League to be open to discussion.

“Most of our members think the price of spoiling the match experience is not a price worth paying for a small increase in accurate decisions,” he said.

“It’s good Wolves have tabled this, it has been a catalyst for a real debate and whatever happens it’s essential that debate continues.”


Football finances in the spotlight


It is also understood there is unlikely to be a vote on Thursday around new financial rules, which are due to link squad costs to anchoring around broadcast income received by the league’s lowest clubs.

Although hope was expressed in April that the league would be in a position to put a concrete proposal to their clubs at the annual meeting, it was always felt the timescale was tight.

Thursday’s meeting in Harrogate comes after Manchester City launched a legal battle against the Premier League over the organisation’s commercial rules.

BBC Sport understands an arbitration hearing surrounding the legality of the league’s associated party transaction (APT) rules, which determine whether sponsorship deals are financially ‘fair’, has been set for 10-21 June.

City’s battle could have long-term implications on the Premier League’s financial rules but current Profit and Sustainability Rules are set to remain in force next season.

Instead of voting in new regulations this summer and then run them next season in shadow form, the league plans to evaluate the new rules as the 2024-25 campaign progresses and iron out any potential issues with the Professional Footballers Association in the hope it is economically and legally sound enough to be adopted.

It is not clear how this will affect ‘New Deal’ discussions over funding with the Football League, which the Premier League paused earlier this year as they attempted to sort their own financial regulations out.

It had been expected the Football Governance Bill, which includes the introduction of a football regulator, would be passed this year but the General Election means the whole issue of a regulator will need to be raised again.

Original article published 05.06.2024 on the BBC Sport website.

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