The audio recordings of discussions between the match officials around Luis Diaz’s disallowed goal against Tottenham have been made public.
Liverpool asked referees’ body PGMOL for the audio after the controversy in the first half of their 2-1 defeat.
Video assistant referee Darren England did not overrule when Liverpool’s Diaz was wrongly flagged offside.
In the audio, England says the check is “perfect” before swearing when he realises a mistake has been made.
After releasing the audio on Tuesday, PGMOL said the error was a result of a “lapse of concentration and loss of focus”.
The Premier League added that the incident in Saturday’s game, and the subsequent review of what led to the incorrect decision, highlighted “systemic weaknesses in the VAR process”.
What the officials said as they analysed the incident
The match between two of the Premier League’s leading teams was goalless – with Liverpool down to 10 men after Curtis Jones’ red card for a tackle on Yves Bissouma – when Diaz thought he had put the visitors ahead after 34 minutes.
But the flag was immediately raised for a possible offside against the Colombian before he ran to a collect a pass from Reds team-mate Mohamed Salah.
VAR: Possible offside Diaz
Assistant referee 1: Coming back for the offside mate
VAR: Just checking the offside. Delay, delay
The VAR team – England, his assistant Dan Cook and the replay operator – begin to evaluate the replays, starting with Diaz collecting the ball and the moment which it is released by Salah.
VAR: Give the kick point, let’s go. Kick point please
Referee: Yeah no worries mate
Replay operator: So here we are
Referee: Wait, OK
Replay operator: Just get a tight angle
VAR: Yeah give me a 2D line ready after this one for frame two after that
Replay operator: So frame two there?
VAR: That’s fine. Perfect yeah. 2D line on left boot
Replay operator: Let me just switch angles
VAR: Romero I think it is?
Replay operator: I think it might be this angle better? Happy with this angle?
Replay operator: 2D line on the boot. Yep ok.
VAR: And stop.
At this point, England tells on-field referee Simon Hooper the check is complete – which means he indicated the offside call was correct and the match could be restarted with a Spurs free-kick.
VAR: Check complete, check complete. That’s fine, perfect (showing Diaz is clearly onside). Off.
Referee: Cheers mate
VAR: Thank you mate
Referee. Well done boys. Good process.
Hooper restarts the game after indicating to the players that Diaz was ruled offside by the VAR.
The realisation that this was a mistake dawns on the VAR team.
The replay operator alerts England that Diaz was flagged offside, meaning that the check was to see if he was onside, and assistant VAR Cook confirms they have made the wrong decision.
Replay operator: Wait, wait, wait, wait. The on-field decision was offside. Are you happy with this?
Assistant VAR: Yeah
Replay operator: Are you happy with this?
Assistant VAR: Offside goal yeah. That’s wrong Daz.
Replay operator: On-field decision was offside. Are you happy with this image? Yeah it’s onside. The image that we gave them is onside.
Assistant VAR: He’s played him. He’s gone offside.
VAR: Oh [expletive]
As England realises an error has been made, Liverpool are on the attack through left-back Andy Robertson and Diaz.
Spurs defender Cristian Romero slides in before the ball reaches Salah, clearing the ball into touch and play stops before the Liverpool throw-in.
At this point Oli Kohout – the VAR Hub operations manager, who was in a different room to the VAR team – communicates the game should be delayed in a bid to rectify the decision.
Replay operative: Delay delay. Oli [PGMOL Hub Ops] saying to delay. Oli’s saying to delay.
Replay operator: Oli’s calling in to say delay the game. The decision is onside
VAR: Can’t do anything
Replay operator: Oli’s saying to delay. Oli’s saying to delay
Fourth official: Yeah
Replay operative: Delay the game, to delay the game? Stop the game.
VAR: They’ve restarted the game. Can’t do anything, can’t do anything.
Assistant VAR: Yeah, they’ve restarted. Yeah
VAR: Can’t do anything.
Assistant VAR: No
VAR: I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything.
The game continued with the Liverpool throw-in and, two minutes later, Son Heung-min slid Spurs in front.
Liverpool responded with an equaliser in first-half stoppage time through Cody Gakpo but the visitors, who went down to nine men following Diogo Jota’s red card, lost when Joel Matip sliced into his own net in injury-time.
How did we get to the point of the audio being released?
Following the incident in Saturday’s Premier League game, Liverpool said “sporting integrity has been undermined”.
In a statement on Sunday, the club said they will “explore the range of options available given the clear need for escalation and resolution”.
PGMOL said the decision to disallow the goal was “a significant human error”.
“In a lapse of concentration and loss of focus in that moment, the VAR lost sight of the on field decision and he incorrectly communicated “check complete”, therefore inadvertently confirming the on-field decision,” added PGMOL in a statement accompanying the release of the audio on Tuesday.
“He did this without any dialogue with the Assistant VAR (AVAR). The match then restarted immediately.
“After a few seconds, the Replay Operator and then the AVAR queried the check-complete outcome with the VAR and asked him to review the image that had been created, pointing out that the original on-field decision had been offside, but this was not communicated to the on-field team at any point during the match.
“The VAR team then gave consideration as to whether the game could be stopped at that point.
“However, the VAR and AVAR concluded that the VAR protocol within the Laws of the Game would not permit that to happen, and they decided intervention was not possible as play had restarted.”
Liverpool also appealed against Jones’ red card, which was given after VAR intervention, but were unsuccessful meaning the midfielder will serve a three-game ban.
Will this lead to changes in VAR?
PGMOL said it recognised standards “fell short of expectations” in the incident, having acknowledged the error to Liverpool shortly after Saturday’s match.
It added a “detailed” report, including the “key learnings and immediate actions taken” had been shared with Liverpool and the other 19 Premier League clubs.
The “key learnings”, which it said would “mitigate against the risk of a future error”, are:
- 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
The Premier League said it has accepted the recommendations from the PGMOL, but planned a comprehensive review alongside the referees’ body to “seek consistently higher standards of VAR performance”.
“Where necessary further recommended actions will be brought forward and implemented,” added the league.
The incident has further scrutiny on the effectiveness on VAR – which was introduced to the Premier League at the start of 2019-20 season – and the effect it has had on the game for players and fans.
Former Chelsea and Scotland winger Pat Nevin says VAR is “not a nonsense”.
“VAR works 99% of the time it has given us more good decisions than referees ever have,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“They get it right much more often than not, but we don’t want to talk about that – we want to spend time talking about the times they have got it wrong.”