Monday Night Football analysis sheds light on what we’ve always wondered: why VAR takes so long

A really fascinating look into refereeing and the actually processes behind VAR.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 16th May 2023

If you tuned into Monday Night Football yesterday evening, you know that Sky Sports skewed from their regularly scheduled programming for a change and chose to focus on something else during the show besides the game they were covering: VAR.

VAR (or video assistant referee if you still somehow haven’t gotten that memo) has been a fixture in the Premier League since 2019, following testing in various divisions around the world and the gradual implementation throughout modern football.

You only have to have watched the odd game in the past few years to know that the system isn’t perfect — and that’s putting it mildly — however, that’s like any referee and what most fans have long scratched their heads over is, simply, why it takes VAR so long to make a decision.

Well, after the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) chief and veteran referee, Howard Webb, joined Monday night’s show and revealed the VAR audio and analysed a number of different calls from this season, we now at least have a clearer idea.

This was just one of many clips which provided insight not only into VAR audio and what the referees are hearing as they operate throughout the game, but how decisions are broken down into different stages by the overall team of officials.


As Webb went on to explain, the unprecedented footage depicts how VAR either tries to support or correct the on-field decision from the referee; whether the first official needs to be sent to the screen or not, as well as other aspects such as what might have happened in the build-up.

While it’s been easy to get frustrated with VAR, especially when so much has been kept in the dark about it since its arrival, this was a truly eye-opening look into why it takes so long for referees to make their final calls and just how hard a job they have when it comes to making on-field decisions.


For instance, how on earth would a referee have spotted this and been able to make the right call without the help of VAR?

Now, this is yet another example of VAR working well and demonstrating its value beyond correcting the ‘clear and obvious’ that we were told it was brought in for; without micromanaging the game in this instance, the officials checked the keeper’s complaint back on the replay and found him to be right.

As Webb told the presenters on the night, the goal of VAR is to have “maximum impact with minimum interference”, although Gary Neville did question at what point reviewing moments in the game gets into the realms of “re-refereeing”.


They even showed off occasions when the referees got it wrong on the day, with the 51-year-old stressing that the PGMOL are looking to hold their own more accountable when it comes to incorrect decisions, as we have seen with apologies made to clubs following mistakes more recently.

While some argued that they refrained from showing some of the bigger mistakes during the show, Webb insisted that referees have made a “commitment to be more transparent’ and this is, at the very least, a start.

Read more:

Again, even detailing how an APP (attacking possession play) factors into the final decision helps combat the confusion that those on the pitch and most of us watching feel when waiting for a VAR check. Moreover, they can’t “sacrifice accuracy for speed”.

As Carragher questioned on the night, there still remains the concern as to whether VAR officials influence decisions before a referee even gets to the monitor, but Webb insisted that they are simply “doing their due diligence by following the process” and that it’s still the ref that makes the final call.

Ultimately, PGMOL have achieved two things by sharing this VAR audio and analysis: firstly, it helped explain why decisions often take a while and secondly, it did the one thing that fans have been asking for since day one — for refs to properly communicate what’s going on and inform rather than confuse.


Neville went on to say that people “need to see this” kind of footage more often and we couldn’t agree more. Thankfully, Webb said, “we’re looking to do this as much as we possibly can” and that there should be greater post-match clarity as more of these clips are shared with the public.

What did you make of it? Was it a fascinating look at one of the most misunderstood parts of the game or simply a PR exercise that did little to remedy some of the biggest complaints this season?

For all the latest news, events and goings on in Greater Manchester, subscribe to The Manc newsletter HERE.

Featured Image — Sky Sports