Five Controversial VAR Decisions that has occurred in the 2023/24 Premier League Season

Published on 30 August 2023 at 13:00

The Premier League season is only three weeks old, but we have already had a number of controversial decisions involving VAR.

Var has been a tool that has been useful in many instances when referees make decisions; however, there has been a rising opinion that VAR is being used as a safety net for referees and that the use of the technology is hindering the game.

Many fans are frustrated by VAR, particularly those in stadiums that have no idea what is happening or why the decision is being reviewed. The VAR system would be better utilised if it were implemented like it is in rugby union. VAR is used to assist the referee when he asks for it, or it is working in the background to look for incidents the referee may have missed, not nitpicking the decisions referees make through the game.

However, this article will look at five decisions that have brought about discussions on whether the VAR system that football is using is good enough.


  1. Marcus Rashford penalty vs. Nottingham Forest


Marcus Rashford was awarded a penalty during the fixture with Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford. The penalty would prove decisive as it led to the winning goal as Bruno Fernandes slotted the spot kick into the net.

However, had VAR been properly implemented, it would have shown that Rashford threw his leg at Danilo, looking for contact. The VAR should have intervened and supported the referee in making the correct decision. This decision cost Forest the chance to take a point back to the City Ground.


  1. Alexis MacAllister Red Card


Alexis MacAllister was shown a red card in Liverpool’s victory over Bournemouth at Anfield. This decision would not end up costing Jurgen Klopp’s side, but it could have. The red card was rescinded the following week, showing that the referee got the initial decision wrong.

VAR should have been used to make the correct decision and tell the referee that he should reverse his decision. VAR should be used to assist the referee in making the correct decision, and if that means correcting a decision, then so be it. Recent comments from Mike Dean about not putting his mate under the scrutiny of the crowd means they will not be called to the screen are frankly wrong. Officials should put everything to one side in order to make the correct decision, and this incident only highlighted that the technology is being used incorrectly.


  1. Manchester United's penalty claim for Christian Romero's handball


This decision was a bit tougher to make, but the decision not to award the penalty was the correct one. The distance away from the shot and the movement of his arms were ‘natural’. There was little Christian Romero could do to move away from the shot in order for the ball not to strike his hand.

The counterargument can be that Tottenham Hotspur gained an advantage from this handball, so the decision should be a penalty. Yet, despite this argument, the referee and VAR made the correct decision.


  1. James Tarkowski's foul on Bernd Leno


VAR determined that the Everton defender fouled the Fulham keeper. This foul would stop Everton from taking the lead at Goodison. This decision would end up proving decisive, as Fulham would go on to win this opening-day fixture.

The protection that goalkeepers have in football is extreme. Bernd Leno came to claim the ball, made a mistake, and so claimed a foul. James Tarkowski did nothing wrong as he put the ball into the net.

However, due to the protection that goalkeepers have, VAR stepped in to ensure that the goal was ruled out. This is not the fault of VAR but the fault of modern-day football to protect the keeper, yet VAR should never have made this decision.


  1. Andre Onana vs. the Wolves


The referee decided not to award a penalty following a clash between the Wolves player and Andre Onana. The Manchester United keeper clattered the Wolves player as they were searching for an equaliser.

Wolves will feel hard done by and that VAR failed them. Had the Wolves player clattered Onana in a similar manner, a foul would have been given. Onana did not touch the ball, or even the player that headed the ball, as he took the Wolves player out.

VAR should have brought the poor decision to the referee’s attention and awarded the penalty. This decision demonstrates that VAR has not improved since last season and that there is still a lot of improvement required for the technology to benefit the sport.


Brendan Mc Gilligan

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