Premier League fans 'may hear ref audio', says Mike Riley

Kasper Schmeichel and Mike Dean
Image: Conversations between players and referees cannot be heard by supporters in the Premier League at present

Premier League referees may have their conversations relayed to supporters in the future following the introduction of Video Assistant Referees (VAR), it has been revealed.

But the official in charge of top referees has stressed that any request to the game's lawmakers is unlikely to be made before 2026.

The Premier League will introduce VAR this season after tests in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup but, under current laws, fans are unable to hear any discussions between its officials.

"It's probably the question I'm asked the most about VAR!" Mike Riley, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) managing director, told Sky Sports News. "At the moment protocol doesn't allow it. But you've seen the experience in other sports.

 during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Swansea City and Notts County at the Liberty Stadium on February 6, 2018 in Swansea, Wales.
Image: VAR will be in use in the Premier League this season for the first time

"Probably the one thing to keep in mind is that, in sports that have implemented technology - cricket, rugby union, for example - it's taken about seven years to get from the start of the technology to somewhere where everyone's comfortable with it.

"On part of that journey, they've introduced things like listening to the communication. In seven years' time, who knows, we may have it in football as well."

Riley will not make any immediate request to the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to allow fans to hear comments between match officials.

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He stressed the importance of confidentiality as officials, players and managers get to grips with the new system.

"I think, at this stage, no I wouldn't [like it]," said Riley. "I think we want to maintain the privacy, the intimacy, of conversations that take place between players and referees on the field of play.

"In time, in making sure that everyone understands decisions, you can see a rationale for it. But we're not there yet."

Nigel Owens and George Ford during the RBS Six Nations match between England and France at Twickenham Stadium on March 21, 2015 in London, England.
Image: Rugby union fans can hear what officials are saying during matches

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery joined several managers at the VAR Hub near Heathrow Airport on Thursday afternoon for a workshop with the PGMOL, Football Association and League Managers Association.

The Premier League says it has set a "high bar" before VAR is used in its games and does not want to slow down its pace.

Following live tests in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup over two seasons, there were 14 reviews in 69 games. The average time for a full review was 84 seconds.

"We don't think that's a bad place to start," says Riley. "In time, we would hope to improve that. What we can aim for during this season is to make sure that we can correct, certainly, those factual decisions; offside position, inside/outside the penalty area. They lend themselves to video technology.

"What we're working really hard to do is to make sure we do that without interrupting the flow of the game too much. So keeping those delays to a minimum, and making sure we maintain the pace of Premier League football."

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