Premier League clubs reject proposal to abolish VAR (2024)

Premier League clubs have voted in favour of continuing to operate VAR in the Premier League at today’s annual general meeting (AGM).

The Athletic exclusively revealed in May that Premier League clubs were set to hold a vote at their AGM — held in Harrogate on Thursday — on a proposal to abolish VAR from the start of next season following a motion from Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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But despite talk over withdrawing VAR from the Premier League, it will remain in place for the 2024-25 campaign, with clubs voting 19 to one in favour of keeping it.

Top flight sides have a constitutional right to propose rule changes, but any such proposal requires a two-thirds majority (14 out of 20 clubs) to pass. This was not reached, with the Premier League saying “it was agreed that improvements should be made for the benefit of the game and supporters”.

A statement read: “As part of thorough discussions at the Annual General Meeting, it was agreed that PGMOL, the Premier League and clubs all have important roles to play in improving the system and its reputation.”

As part of ongoing efforts to enhance VAR, discussions with clubs focused on six key areas:

  1. Maintaining a high threshold for VAR intervention to deliver greater consistency and less interruptions to the flow of the game.
  2. Reducing delays to the game, primarily through the introduction of semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) and the maintained high threshold for VAR intervention.
  3. Improving fan experience through a reduction in the delays, in-stadium announcements from referees after a post-VAR change of decision and where possible, an enhanced offering of big screen replays to include all VAR interventions.
  4. Working with the PGMOL on the implementation of more robust VAR training to improve consistency, including an emphasis on speed of process while preserving accuracy.
  5. Increasing transparency and communication around VAR — including expanded communications from Premier League Match Centre and through broadcast programming such as Match Officials Mic’d Up.
  6. The delivery of a fan and stakeholder VAR communication campaign, which will seek to further clarify VAR’s role in the game to participants and supporters.

A Wolves statement said they were “disappointed” with the outcome of the vote, but welcomed “the commitment to improve VAR”.

It added: “While we still believe that Premier League football would be superior for supporters, players, coaches and viewers without VAR, we think that these improvements are crucial for the integrity of the game and for enhancing the overall matchday experience for our supporters.”

Chief of the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL), England’s officiating body, Howard Webb also confirmed in April the Premier League was exploring the introduction of in-stadium announcements to explain VAR decisions.

VAR has been used in the English top-flight since 2019, helping improve decision making but also generating persistent controversy.

Premier League clubs reject proposal to abolish VAR (1)

(Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

When putting the motion forward last month, Wolves accepted the decision to introduce VAR was “made in good faith and with the best interests of football and the Premier League at its heart” but argued it has caused “numerous unintended negative consequences that are damaging the relationship between fans and football, and undermining the value of the Premier League brand”.

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Wolves listed a host of repercussions including the impact on goal celebrations, confusion inside stadiums due to lengthy checks and poor communication and diminished accountability of on-field officials.

The top flight’s board of directors believes removing VAR is not the correct path forward, suggesting that doing so would increase wrong calls and adversely impact the Premier League’s reputation among Europe’s leading divisions. It also thinks the void left, having removed VAR, would potentially place even greater criticism on on-field decisions made by match officials and increase frustration for supporters.

Since VAR was brought in five years ago, the number of correct decisions made in games has increased from 82 per cent, prior to its introduction, to 96 per cent this season. Statistics released by the English Football League (EFL) last month showed officials in the Championship, a division that has not implemented VAR, got 85 per cent of decisions right during the 2023-24 campaign.

The 2023-24 season has featured many contentious incidents in the Premier League, which has heightened the criticism of VAR and led some teams and fans to question the competition’s integrity.

Liverpool’s Luis Diaz saw a goal wrongly disallowed for offside against Tottenham Hotspur in September, resulting in a PGMOL apology following a “significant human error”.

Nottingham Forest have written letters of complaint to — and considered suing — PGMOL, while also questioning the appointment of VAR Stuart Attwell following April’s defeat at Everton.

GO DEEPERVAR vote: What Premier League fans want their clubs to do

(Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images)

Premier League clubs reject proposal to abolish VAR (3)Premier League clubs reject proposal to abolish VAR (4)

Omar Garrick is a Junior Editor for The Athletic UK, based in London. He previously worked at BBC Sport and The Manchester Evening News. Omar is a journalism graduate from Cardiff University and the University of Sheffield. Follow Omar on Twitter @GarrickOmar

Premier League clubs reject proposal to abolish VAR (2024)
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