Tech in Football: Controversial VAR errors in Premier League


The advent of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is meant to set straight controversial officiating by human referees. The catch to this can be drawn from popular Nigerian parlance “It’s human you meet behind the masquerade’

Has VAR been efficient? Has it really helped with those close calls in football matches that affect the results of football matches? Or is it a tool in controlling games by governing bodies as some football fans would claim? 

Whether the technological solution introduced to football to ensure more accurate decision-making in games has lived up to expectations or not, we can’t take away the fact that VAR has helped in evolving the most-watched sport known to man. 

Premier League Referee Attwell waiting out a VAR review. Ian Kington/Agence France-Press – Getty Images

According to Barca Innovation Hub, the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system into the Laws of the Game by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in 2018, aims to help referees with their decision-making. The VAR system was incorporated in the big European leagues during the 2017-18 season in Italy and Germany but during the 2018-19 season in Spain, France, and England. However, it was first tested in the 2012-13 Dutch league season.

Since the technology emerged, VAR has been marred by controversy, even in the testing phase, with complaints from managers and players compounded by fans’ frustration at the decision-making process. The English football, which is a focal point in this read, adopted the technology in 2018 FA cup ties and had it launched fully in 2019.


Despite being in the last batch of Football Associations to adopt the VAR, English football is still riddled with questionable or controversial decisions in games as it were. Football fans would put up social media threads explaining how the technology is a tool to manipulate games by the FA. Those claims are unfounded.

As such, we will take a look at the most ridiculous calls made by VAR.  But before then, it is imperative to note the role of VAR and how it augments the responsibility of football referees without undermining their roles. 

What will the VAR review?

VAR’s guidelines state that the technology should only be used to overturn a decision if the on-pitch referee has made a clear and obvious error.

– Goal/no goal
– Penalty/no penalty
– Direct red card (not second yellow card/caution)
– Mistaken identity (when the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player)

– How VAR has affected every Premier League club

What will it not review?
– Any yellow card (including second yellow card leading to red)
– Any free-kick offence outside the box, unless a red card offense or if it leads to a goal/penalty.

Photo from Twitter

Mike Riley, managing director of the official referee’s body and the man responsible for VAR in England, said technology had “added value to the game” but said there had been incidents where a referee’s decision should have been overturned.


Below are some of those moments VAR decisions were questionable.


Manchester City Vs Bournemouth 2019/2020 (3-1)


The reigning champions had a comfortable win at the Cherries.  Despite leading by 2goals to nil, the Video Assistant Referee should have been used to award blazing Manchester City a penalty in their 3-1 win at Bournemouth.

Watch highlights below:



  1. Manchester City vs Arsenal (2-1) 2021/2022 
Photo from Youtube

For the most part of recent seasons, Arsenal fans have complained about biased referee decisions against them. 

While the gunners thought VAR would be a respite to their problems, they tend to have suffered a few questionable decisions even with the technology.

The VAR was again in the eye of the storm more recently in a premier league clash between the re-emerging Arsenal and the reigning champions.

Pep Guardiola’s side went tooth and nail to secure a 2-1 victory at the Emirates but the gunners believe they were unlucky after a few calls didn’t go their way that night. 

A huge VAR (Video Assistant Referee) decision left fans on Twitter in complete disbelief.

In the 12th minute, Arsenal midfielder Martin Odegaard went down as he tried to round Man City goalkeeper Ederson. Replays showed that Ederson came in contact with Odegaard’s foot first before getting to the ball.


Watch the match highlight below:


Manchester City v Aston Villa 2020/2021

photo from ESPN

Manchester City’s high pressing style has made their opponents susceptible to debatable VAR decisions.

Man City and Villa were locked at 0-0 with 79 minutes gone. Rodri was in a clear offside position when Bernardo Silva headed the ball forward, but when Villa defender Tyrone Mings chested the ball down it was taken off him by Rodri, who returned the ball to Silva to score. The linesman did not flag for offside and the goal was allowed. Furious Villa manager Dean Smith was sent off by referee Jon Moss for his protests.

After a VAR check, the goal was awarded. However, a week after the incident, the premier league governing body reviewed it and said it shouldn’t have been awarded.


Manchester got a penalty after full time

Photo from ESPN

Brighton 2-3 Manchester United

This one right here is so surreal. Bruno Fernandez scoring a penalty after the final whistle has to be the most Manchester United thing to happen. 


How did it happen?

Brighton 2-3 Man United (Sept. 26)

Photo from EuroSport

Brighton had equalized against Man United in the 95th minute. United went up the other end from the kick-off for one last-ditch attack, but it looked as though it had come to nothing when Harry Maguire’s header was cleared off the line by Solly March and referee Chris Kavanagh blew the final whistle.

Wait for it….

The VAR, Simon Hooper, identified a possible handball by Neal Maupay, who had raised his arm to try and block Maguire’s header. Kavanagh reviewed pitchside and awarded the penalty which was converted by Bruno Fernandes to win the game in the 100th minute.



The VAR is here to stay and it won’t stop being riddled with controversies now and then. 

The video technology meant to give augmented efforts in making more accurate vital decisions in football matches seems to be spurring new agitations amongst football fans.  As sociologists would have it, a Utopian society only exists in our imaginations.


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