Saturday 7 December 2019

Elleray admits 'teething problems' after Willian incident

Willian: Penalty controversy. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP
Willian: Penalty controversy. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP

Ben Rumsby

The competence of the Premier League's panel of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) was called into question yesterday after it emerged a review had been botched during Chelsea's FA Cup win over Norwich.

As revealed yesterday, Mike Jones's failure to watch a super slow motion replay of a penalty incident involving Willian meant a booking for diving issued to him was wrongly allowed to stand during extra-time of Wednesday night's third-round replay.

Jones's bosses at Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL)are also understood to accept it would not have been wrong for a penalty to have been awarded for Timm Klose's tackle on Willian.

Jones allowing Graham Scott's on-field decision to stand infuriated Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, with Willian adamant he was fouled and even Klose admitting he should have been penalised for his challenge.

The VAR blunder emerged when the BBC, which was covering the match live, showed a super slow motion replay proving there had been contact between Klose's leg and Willian's right foot.

Despite watching the incident 10 times, including from the decisive angle, Jones failed to slow down his own footage to the same speed and was, therefore, under the misapprehension no contact had been made and Willian had dived.

He duly decided Scott had not made a 'clear and obvious error' both in not awarding a penalty nor in booking the winger. Had he slowed the footage down, he would have been within his rights to reach a different conclusion.

It is also understood the decision to book Willian is considered by PGMOL to have been absolutely the wrong one and should definitely have been overturned. That would have meant the game restarting with a drop ball in the area had a penalty not been awarded.

Jones took 44 seconds to review the incident and it is understood VARs could be instructed to spend more time looking at replays at both normal speed and super slow motion to avoid a repeat of Wednesday night's error.

Willian has no right of appeal against his card, which can only be rescinded immediately after a booking for diving in the box.

One of the architects of VAR, former Premier League referee David Elleray, admitted "teething problems" were inevitable during what have been live trials.

The technical director of the International Football Association Board said: "This is only the fourth time in a competitive match that it has been used in England and there will always be teething problems. We must remember that, we, in England are in the very early stages of getting used to this. But what it also highlights is that there are some decisions that are neither clearly black nor white.

"And, in principle, the original decision stands unless it is shown to be clearly and obviously wrong."

PGMOL declined to comment on Wednesday's mistake but is also understood to feel such teething problems are part of the process of perfecting VAR ahead of its expected rollout next season.

Jones was also the VAR for Leicester City's third-round replay victory over Fleetwood on Tuesday in which he correctly overturned the disallowing of a goal for offside. It is also a matter of fact that had Wednesday's game not been part of the VAR trial, Willian would still have been booked for diving. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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