McArthur and pals divided on VAR

James McArthur
James McArthur

Former Wigan Athletic star James McArthur and the Crystal Palace dressing room remain divided on the effectiveness of Video Assistant Referee technology after witnessing its influence in their 2-1 defeat at Brighton.

Palace were eliminated from the FA Cup at the third-round stage on Monday when they lost 2-1 at their rivals following their former striker Glenn Murray’s 87th-minute goal.

Both clubs had been visited by Mike Riley, head of Professional Game Match Officials Limited, on Friday to explain the system because of their involvement in the first competitive fixture in English football in which VAR would be used.

It was only when Murray scored, with his knee and amid suspicions of handball, that it was needed, but even though the goal rightly stood, the incident was shrouded in the confusion of a few recognising VAR had any influence.

Match official Andre Marriner did not signal he was receiving assistance from Neil Swarbrick, who was working with the technology from a studio in West London, or use the pitch-side monitors to make a judgement on Murray’s finish.

Palace manager Roy Hodgson and many of his team were also angered, having at least initially believed it should have been ruled out, and McArthur said: “It’s probably 15 seconds you are waiting. They take a bit of time to review it.

“The ref just said it was not a handball. Obviously they have had a look, the referee and whoever is behind the system, and they do not think it is a handball. We have had a look, some people think it is and some think it is not.

“It is hard for them. We’ve got half the changing room saying it is a goal and half the changing room saying it is not. It is one of those that will probably not happen like that again, but on the first night it is so hard to call.

“It is up to the referees to make those decisions. Maybe they did get it right and it did not touch Glenn’s hand. He does not think it touches his hand and if you look at it closely, they have got so many cameras watching it, they can see it a lot more than you.

“There is so much money for clubs involved that you want mistakes out. But at the same time it’s part of life in football that people make mistakes. We make mistakes and referees do. You have got opinions both ways.”

Riley had previously explained that, on average, VAR decisions take 30-40 seconds to review and that a sample of up to 3,000 games may be necessary before its effectiveness can be judged.

“Especially in the Premier League, the brand is based on its physicality and its speed and that is what the world likes to see,” said Brighton’s Murray.

“If the VAR is going to slow it down, then it’s not a good thing.

“If it can be introduced smoothly, fine. We already have goal-line technology which has kicked off with no problem.”