Howard Webb wants to increase transparency around VAR in the Premier League by sharing conversations between referees and video assistant referees with fans.
Currently, only big screens in stadiums show whether a decision is reviewed by VAR and why before revealing the result, but fans and viewers are unaware of how and why decisions are made.
Former Premier League referee Webb has returned to English football to begin his new role as the first Chief Referee for Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) and one of his main focuses will be VAR.
In an exclusive interview with sky sportsWebb, who was previously the managing director of the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) in the United States and Canada, said of the broadcast of VAR conversations: “It’s quite interesting that I have been involved quite extensively in this conversation in the United States.
“I was part of a task force that looked at the possibilities of conversations between officials being broadcast live or quickly about a delay after the incident – and that’s a conversation that’s still ongoing and that’s the one I will follow closely.
“We will need certain clearances for this to happen from the global governing body.
“There is certainly nothing to hide. I listened to some of the training given to VARs and referees here a few weeks ago and the level of communication is really high, very professional and very focused on what the decision is checked and the considerations that are examined.
“We’re potentially preparing for a day where that plays out. We can play after the event now – we’ve done that a lot in MLS and I’ll be looking to share some of that because when you hear the levels these people are working at , it leaves a positive impression.
“So we will be looking to increase that level of transparency in the future to the extent possible here and now. Some things would require permissions from governing bodies, for example, for that to happen, but it’s all on the table and we’ we are looking for ways to do that.
“The levels are good here and the perception may not be quite in line with reality.”
On Wednesday it was revealed by the Key Match Incident panel that Premier League video assistant referees have made six incorrect interventions this season, while 42 have been found to be correct.
Asked what the number one priority is in his new role at PGMOL, the 51-year-old replied: “I think the first thing I want to do is make sure people understand that a Good officiating starts on the pitch, with good decision-making, good game management, efficient and effective player management and that all the focus is not on VAR.
“Most of the noise I hear when I’m out of the English game about what’s going on with the refereeing here is around VAR. It seems to be the topic of conversation and it’s been a while now. Obviously there were a few bumps in the road with the implementation, but good officiating is something that starts on the pitch.
“Thus, the focus will be on putting coaching and structures in place to support effective decision-making on the pitch. those clear and obvious errors that can sometimes still occur with the decision made in the field.
“Increase transparency – I think it was necessary for that to happen a bit more and to pull the curtain back on the process and show people the rationale behind the decision-making, so I think that’s where I I will focus during these first few weeks.”
Webb, who refereed the World Cup final in 2010, is set to meet key personnel from Premier League and English Football League clubs in 2023.
Asked how VAR needs to improve immediately under his watch, he said: “Without a doubt, it’s about making sure people understand that VAR is in a place where it will intervene in case clear and obvious error identified by VAR Minimum interference for maximum benefit.
“But I have to manage expectations because there are a lot of situations in the game that are really subjective where people will form a different opinion.”
A criticism of VAR is that referees on the pitch routinely change their decisions when called to the pitchside monitor, with referees rarely sticking to their original call.
When asked if it was a waste of the referee’s time on the pitch to go on screen, Webb replied: “No, it’s not.
“The training we’re going to give VARs is to systematically identify what is and isn’t clear and obvious error, but that still involves judgment by a human being looking at all angles.
“That judgment will be good most of the time because these people are highly qualified, the referee goes to the screen on the recommendation of the VAR and usually he will change his decision if the VAR is working properly.
“However, that human being, that VAR who made that judgment may have made an incorrect judgment. They may have identified something that they think was a clear and obvious mistake, but the referee is not okay, so the referees will be absolutely entitled to say, “Thank you, but in my opinion, I think my first decision was good. And they’ll be perfectly within their rights to do that when they’ve watched the screen.
“When the referees come on screen they will make the final decision and they can keep their call if they want – you won’t see that that often if VAR is working well.”