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Liverpool VAR audio dissected: Forensic analysis of offside mistake after PGMOL release discussion

Luis Diaz's goal for Liverpool at Tottenham was mistakenly disallowed; VAR failed to overturn an incorrect offside call after believing the on-field decision had been to award the goal; PGMOL released the audio from the decision made by VAR officials Darren England and Dan Cook

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Mike Wedderburn takes a closer look at the video released by the PGMOL following the VAR mistake in disallowing Liverpool's goal against Tottenham.

Plenty has been said about the two-minute clip of the decision that led to Liverpool's disallowed goal at Tottenham on Saturday.

While the PGMOL's decision to release the audio meant some aspects of the decision have become clearer, other areas leave more questions than answers.

Here, we breakdown the major parts of the incident.

Firstly, who is speaking?

We have VAR Darren England, VAR assistant Dan Cook, the referee Simon Hooper, the fourth official Michael Oliver, the assistant referee Adrian Holmes who flagged Diaz offside, and we hear two VAR replay operators.

Though he is referenced throughout, we don't hear Oli Kohout, VAR Hub Operations Executive At PGMOL.

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Listen to the audio recording of the VAR discussion that led to Liverpool's wrongly disallowed goal in the 2-1 defeat at Tottenham on Saturday

The opening statement

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Firstly, the opening text slate states that referee Simon Hooper cannot hear every conversation being had, "only the comments directed at him". However, it is unclear exactly which comments are directed at him.

So, what exactly can he hear? Much of the comment about this clip surrounds how chaotic it sounds, with several people speaking at once; however, we don't know exactly what comes through Simon Hooper's ears.

48 seconds

This is the moment the issue occurs. "Check complete, it's fine," said by Darren England in a tone that is very final, as if to say "carry on, it's fine."

This, of course, is the germ of the mistake: the on-field decision was offside, not onside, so an intervention needed to be made, rather than a continuation of play.

50 seconds

Two seconds later, the play continues after referee Hooper's whistle. Technically, the chance to stop the game has now passed. Three seconds later, the second VAR replay operator first realises there is an issue.

One minute and 11 seconds

With that expletive, it's quite clear this is the moment Darren England realises the mistake. The second VAR replay operator then says "delay, delay", but at this point, with play resumed, nothing can be rectified.

One minute and 16 seconds

The ball goes out of play for a throw-in and the replay operator is saying that Oli Kohout wants the game delayed.

One minute and 32 seconds

Darren England then says "Oli?" - and we hear Michael Oliver say "Yeah", and then "Yeah go on" - one big outstanding question here is whether Michael Oliver thinks he is being spoken to, or Oli Kohout. Kohout cannot be heard throughout this clip.

At this point, the ball is still out of play. The second VAR replay operator pleads again to delay the game, but England again insists they can't as the game has been restarted.

One minute and 41 seconds

Twenty-eight seconds after the ball goes out of play for a throw, and three separate people having talked about delaying the game, Andrew Robertson throws ball back on pitch and the match restarts.

Could common sense have prevailed and play been stopped during these 28 seconds? And, crucially, did referee Hooper or any other on-field ref hear these conversations?

Gary Neville claimed on Twitter that a screen he could see in the gantry showed Hooper looking "sick" during the game after realising there had been a mistake, but Dermot Gallagher said on Ref Watch that referee Hooper was not informed of the issue until half-time.

The closing statement

At the end of the audio clip, another slate is shown, in which the PGMOL states it has undertaken a "full review into the circumstances" and will implement conditions to ensure the same error does not happen in the future.

In a statement to accompany the release of the audio, the PGMOL accepted "standards fell short of expectations" and confirmed a "detailed report, including the key learnings and immediate actions taken, has been submitted to the Premier League, who have shared it with Liverpool FC and subsequently all other Premier League clubs".

According to the PGMOL, those key learnings include:

  • Guidance to Video Match Officials has always emphasised the need for efficiency, but never at the expense of accuracy. This principle will be clearly reiterated
  • A new VAR Communication Protocol will be developed to enhance the clarity of communication between the referee and the VAR team in relation to on-field decisions
  • As an additional step to the process, the VAR will confirm the outcome of the VAR check process with the AVAR before confirming the final decision to the on-field officials

There has been widespread criticism that England and Cook were permitted to officiate in the United Arab Emirates for a match which took place hich took place just 48 hours before the Tottenham vs Liverpool game.

The PGMOL, along with the FA, pledged to review the policy to allow match officials to officiate matches outside of FIFA or UEFA appointments.

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Jurgen Klopp has called for a replay of Saturday's Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham after Luis Diaz's goal was incorrectly ruled out following a VAR error.

Ref Watch: One little question would've prevented 'terrible mistake'

Sky Sports' Dermot Gallagher:

"It was a terrible mistake to make. Everyone has acknowledged that.

"It's now about the process and one of the processes is they will have to undertake from now is the VAR will have to ask the referee: 'what is the on-field decision?'

"If that little question had been asked and [Simon Hooper] said "offside" then you've got a starting point. Then you can go forward. Unfortunately, because that question wasn't asked, they were under the impression the goal had been given on the field and that's how everything unfolded."

Analysis: Protocols will change, lessons will be learned

Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:

"Listening to the audio, I keep wondering why they were in such a rush to make that decision.

"They are being put under pressure to make these decisions really quickly. When VAR was first introduced, and they were taking a long time to make these decisions, everyone was complaining about the fact it was taking too long.

"People in the stadiums didn't know what was going on either, so I think that's why they've tried to speed up the decision-making process.

"But listening to the audio, it's obvious that if you do anything at that speed, and so many people are watching and depending on your decision-making, mistakes are going to be made."

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