Premier League: Major VAR changes to be introduced ahead of the 2021/22 season

Premier League VAR changes

In what must be music to the ears of many supporters, the Premier League is trying to change one of the most talked about aspects of the modern game. 

Indeed, since the introduction of VAR at the start of the 2019-20 season, it'd be fair to say the onus has largely been on the attacker when it comes to penalty decisions. With patterns of play slowed down and poured over, a defender's contact can look so much worse, leading to a dramatic upturn in the number of spot-kicks awarded. 

That, along with the ruling out of goals due to the most marginal of offsides, has been one of the major criticisms of the technology and something hotly debated by fans and pundits alike. 

Now, that could be about to change. 

How the Premier League are changing penalty rules 

One of the key aspects that the referees in the Premier League are looking to change ahead of the new season is the notion of 'buying' a penalty. 

According to The Guardian, officials will now be looking for a set of three criteria when it comes to making decisions. When there is a collision in the box, they will now be looking towards the degree of the contact made on the attacking player, the consequences of that and, finally, the motivation of the player fouled in reaction to the challenge. 

“Referees will look for contact and establish clear contact, then ask themselves the question: does that contact have a consequence?” said Head of Referring Mike Riley.

The big screen shows the VAR decision of No Goal for Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City third goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at Etihad Stadium on Augu

“They will then ask themselves a question: has the player used that contact to actually try and win a foul penalty? So it’s not sufficient just to say: ‘Yes, there’s contact.’

“I think that the feedback we’ve had from players, both attackers and defenders, [is that] you want it to be a proper foul that has a consequence, not something that somebody has used slight to contact to go over, and we’ve given the penalty to reward it.”

As a result of this change, it is thought that Raheem Sterling's controversial penalty to win England the Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark would not have been awarded. 

The Offside Rule 

Another major gripe has been just how often would-be goals have been ruled out due to the most marginal of offsides.

Jordan Henderson's late 'winner' against Everton in October was chalked off due to Sadio Mane's elbow seemingly being in an offside position, while West Brom's Mbaye Diagne was judged to have been ahead of the play despite the dreaded lines drawn up by the VAR team being unable to accurately pinpoint his position due to a teammate blocking his path during a late-season win over Southampton. 

General view inside the stadium as the big screen confirms the VAR decision of No goal, after Everton had scored from an offside position during the Premier League match between Everton and Leeds Unit

While the lines aren't going, the new rules will see those manning the VAR operation use a wider 'broadcast' line rather than a series of thinner ones, giving some benefit of doubt back to the attacker. 

“We’ve now reintroduced the benefit of the doubt to the attacking player,” Riley said.

“Effectively what we have given back to the game is 20 goals that were disallowed last season by using quite forensic scrutiny. It’s the toenails, the noses of the players that last season were offside – this season they will be onside.”

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