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Question Number: 34260

Mechanics 7/8/2021

RE: Euros Professional

VAR fan of Bergen, Norway asks...

I have some questions relating to VAR and some decisions in the ongoing Euros.

1) The red card against Sweden seemed harsh. It may have been reckless (yellow), but any excessive force seemed to originate from the player from Ukraine running into the situation.

2) When this situation, as well as a correct red from earlier in the tournament was reviewed, the on-field review started with a still image of the point of contact, followed by slow-motion replay. As the point was to review the intensity of the challenges this does not match the published VAR protocol. What's you're take on this?

(I was impressed by the DOGSO review against the Netherlands. That was VAR at its finest.)

3) England's penalty in the semis seemed soft. Do you think it was a penalty given the current rules?

4) I honestly don't think the ref would have given it had he conducted an on-field review. Was the VAR correct in determining it was not "a clear an obvious error"? Do you think an OFR was warranted to "sell the decision" given the stakes?
Do you think the VAR protocol should lower the bar for on-field review in extra time given that these matches are by nearly always tense, close and important.

My thoughts are 1) yellow, 2) it makes the fouls seem way worse, 3) no pen, no dive (this seems consistent with the very welcome ignoring of "soft fouls" in the rest of the tournament), and 4) regardless of the final decision the ref should have looked at it, if not what's the point of VAR.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

For me the Sweden red card was 100% correct. I don't like extended straight leg challenges from a horizontal position as they run an extremely high risk of serious injury. Any challenge that has the studs showing at an opponent’s shin making contact is serious foul play.
So for me the image of the sole of the boot with studs making contact on the opponent’s shin will be a red card every time and intensity will rarely be the defining part.
On the England penalty I felt it was soft although in real time with the referee in a good position it would have looked like #5 Denmark stuck his foot in and did not make contact with the ball while making possible contact with Sterling causing him to lose balance and fall. Throw in cintact by the other defender and this would have looked like a penalty. VAR, on review, would not have seen the referee’s decision as a clear and obvious error as there could have been possible contact and the video evidence is unclear. As a result VAR would not intervene unless a change of decision was required.
So for me
1. The red card upgrade was correct. I personally would rather see red for this type of challenge rather than depending on VAR. Had the game not had VAR no red card would have been a Travesty for this type of challenge.
2. On SFP challenges I believe the manner of the challenge will present as excessive force endangering the safety of an opponent whether viewed in regular mode or slow motion. I have yet to see a SFP challenge being exaggerated by a slow motion view particularly when the manner of the challenge put the opponent at risk. The only doubtful red card I seen was the Welsh one for the cynical foul by Wilson in the Denmark game. Indeed slow motion only review would have done him a favour!
3. I think the only possibility was to show no possible contact which then is a caution for Sterling and a free kick to Denmark.
4. I think that had the referee looked at the foul pitch side it would have suggested that there was a doubt about the call and he may have got the call wrong. Once VAR does not see a clear and obvious error then the on field call has to be accepted. The referee wasn’t going to see anything different than the VAR official. I have looked at it multiple times and it can go either way. For me there is more evidence leaning towards a foul than a dive.
As to a policy decision on soft fouls that is a matter for the referees to implement rather than VAR. If its a foul of any description VAR is only concerned about clear and obvious error rather than the softness or otherwise of it. I have been with referees who have not given fouls that I would have given and vice versa.
I recall a senior AR telling me in a particular game that he would have given a penalty for an incident where a defender made slight contact on a attacker who was stood on the goal line shielding the ball that was eventually kicked out for a corner in the same incident. In my opinion it would have been on the higher scale of soft had I given it.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi, and thanks for your question

1) This was a blatant, inarguable red card. Straight leg studs up at knee height right in the direction of an opponent. The Ukraine player is perfectly entitled to run at the ball - if your argument is that he should have stopped running because of the dangerous tackle, then that is acknowledging the danger level of the tackle! The onus is on Danielson to play with consideration towards his opponents. He failed to do so - and the manner of this challenge endangered the safety of an opponent. The hyperextension of the knee as a direct result is a perfect example of why this was a red card. Personally, I'm amazed it needed VAR to get this decision right. This was an extremely dangerous challenge.

2) I've noticed that referees are faced with a still of the 'worst' moment' when commencing on-field review - in the same way, handball decisions are usually presented with the moment of contact. Personally, I think this is poor practice, but this isn't mentioned in the protocol. The protocols state that, in "general, slow motion replays should only be used for facts, e.g. position of offence/player, point of contact for physical offences and...." Again, i do think that slow-motion replays are overused and tend to be the primary replay, but usually I don't think that effects the decision. As I mentioned before, there's simply no argument for anything but a red here. However, that part of VAR protocol only refers to the VAR themselves, not the on-field review.

3) Contentious question! So, I'm Australian, and don't care either way who goes through. I'm inclined to think it was a dive (think, not know) - but bear in mind that the referee has a different view of any angle we've been shown. Was it soft? If the defender clipped his leg and tripped him, it's a foul. I don't really like this notion of 'soft' penalties. It was a foul or it wasn't - penalties shouldn't be reserved for wild swings nowhere near the ball, deliberate hacks and players getting flattened like they're hit by a truck. It's about the outcome, not the action - the action simply needs to be careless (showing a lack of consideration when making a challenge or acts without precaution).

4) VAR protocol is to only recommend an on-field review if they believe that a clear and obvious error has occurred (the referee themselves can initiate it but only if they suspect something serious has been missed). On-field review to 'sell' the decision is absolutely a misuse of the VAR and must be avoided - though unfortunately I know of one new-to-EPL referee who has historically done just this. The stakes aren't relevant, nor is the point of the match - and I think that changing the standard depending on the minute of the game would be terrible and inconsistent.

I know that 'dive' is the accusation made - and I'm inclined to agree - however, I don't think VAR clearly shows this. Remember - for on-field review, the footage must show that a clear and obvious error has occurred. VAR isn't looking to prove the original decision - they're looking to disprove it (and occasionally the referee actually has a better angle than any camera). I don't think we can see contact in the footage - but crucially, I don't think we can see clearly, with certainty, that there was no contact. I think the footage is inconclusive. There's a difference between 'not seeing contact' and 'seeing no contact' - and with the angles I've seen, there MIGHT be contact. Usually with contact you can see some movement of the leg as a result - but sometimes this isn't apparent from all angles. How many times have you watched a replay, thought there was no contact from the first 2 or 3 angles, but then could see it clearly on the last one?

So, that's why I think no on-field review was the correct decision because I think the footage was inconclusive. Similarly, if the penalty was not given, I don't believe it would be awarded based on the footage.

And bear in mind that no on-field review does not mean that VAR agrees with the decision. They could also think it might be a dive - but that it's not 'clear and obvious' - in this case, that there's still too strong a possibility that the footage has missed it. Often for a dive you need to capture daylight between the points of 'contact' on the attacker and defender.

Therefore, my belief is that even IF the referee looked at the footage, I think he would have stuck with his original decision because of what I stated before, that the footage is not 100% conclusive on whether there was no contact (and throughout this, I'm presuming that if there's contact, then it's the result of the defender acting carelessly and clipping the foot - I couldn't see any other way for contact to occur, unless of course the attacker initiated it for a dive - but we can't see that in this footage).

And, on a final note, there was a ball on the pitch nearby as the attacker ran into the Penalty Area. Ref only needs to stop play if that ball interferes. It appeared to have no impact on anybody so the decision to continue play wasn't wrong, and therefore also not a sufficient reason for VAR review.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

you make some interesting points, as opinion they can be perceived as credible but let's remember the referee has to react immediately. While there is the VAR and the ability to rehash a decision on a subjective camera angle, in real-time a referee will see what he sees from where he is. The gut instinct plays a large part in a referee's reaction to what we see as much as the reactions of the players involved or those around pointing, gesturing, and blaming one another. .

I will disagree slightly with my colleague as to the correctness of the decision from the view that all players will try to kick the ball. Given the offending Swedish player actually kicked the ball, not tried to block the path or take it off the player as that ball was played far out in front and yes, we do realize that the excuse, I got the ball first, is not a get of jail card for a reckless or excessive act but I honestly felt the player was trying to kick the ball. The fact the leg was locked with studs pointed had more to do with the follow-through than directing it at the incoming player, who in partial truth ran into the outstretched leg in as much as the player pointed it at him unsafely while trying to play the ball.

The fact this is is a nightmare injury due to physics & circumstances created and there was blame to attach. Stiff-legged challenges into oncoming players are susceptible to creating injury as legs locked with studs pointed are considered excessive in nature. ESPECIALLY if we see forward movement where this is directed into or through an opponent. Mass & speed as a physically directed vectored force is a physics horrid mess when players challenging use it indiscriminately against one another. We look for players to pull out or at least attempt to soften a collision or absorb the impact in less damaging ways by not directing studs at the players, trying to bend the legs, not sliding through the player, or coming over the top of the ball. I agree with you partly he was unlucky but he was to blame!

I think the use of VAR in this tournament has been the best of any so far. So let us hope they keep adjusting and getting better once a reason explodes which shows us an issue that could be improved upon. You are correct any reviewed incident broken down in slow motion can indeed create an image that might not have been there prior to seeing the incident in real-time! But the mechanics of how such challenges are broken down even if we downplay the severity, locked legs, airborne, studs showing with any contact into the opponent in between ankle and knee or elsewhere are always a bad choice that will have everyone seeing red.

Hmm soft Pk? I really think no referee is prepared to award a soft penalty in such a match. The thing is you have to have the courage to call it, if, it adversely AFFECTS the player. Sure be great if the defender's judo chopped his butt into the ground two-footed scissored his legs as they pulled the shirt so we can all agree it was definitely foul. VAR might suggest looking again if they see it as nothing, but they do not have the power to overrule the referee decision, as a fact of play, it is the CR opinion that carries the da.y They might suggest he review it but only if it was 100% clear the decision was incorrect would a decision be reversed or changed but not for an expressed opinion that it might be! I recall my friend ESSE in the 98 WC in France, 16 cameras missed what he saw as did a billion viewers but the one view that did catch it was 100% conclusive, that is called integrity.

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