Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has maintained pressure on PGMOL
A replay is only fair: Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp says apology won't change things | Image: Getty

I love the ruckus surrounding the disallowed Liverpool goal in their loss against Spurs.

Unlike Gabon’s Ali Bongo, Liverpool did not call on their friends to make noise. They did it themselves. As a result, many other parties were drawn into the saga.

The end result -a success- was the release of the audio communication between parties involved in manning the match. This audio shows that Pool clearly suffered an injustice. It exposes some challenges in VAR and sets the system up for even greater scrutiny.

I have some take-homes from the saga which refuses to go away almost a week later.

Communication Problems Abide

The entire VAR check was a classic case of ‘broken telephone.’ In the audio, the VAR checks the incident, and reports back, “Check complete. Check complete! That’s fine, perfect.” This message gets to the AR1, who responds, “Playing.” The center referee responds, “Cheers mate! Well done boys; good process!” He then restarts the play. 

Moments later, the replay operator notices the mix-up. The PGMOL Hubs operator also notices it. He suggests that the game is delayed. The replay operator communicates this to the Assistant VAR and the VAR. However, VAR says that they can’t do anything since the match has restarted. 

The communication process involves at least six people -referee, AR1, VAR, AVAR, RO, Hubs Operator- and a major breakdown. Given the speed and pressure of a football game, such a mix-up is not far-fetched.

But it is the response to the realisation that a mistake has occurred that is appealing. VAR saying that they cannot do anything since the game has restarted may be the letter of the law, but it is not the spirit of the game. Much reference has been made to the game where Manchester United took a penalty to beat Brighton after the full-time whistle. 

Questions abound regarding how long the VAR check chain should be and how the communication should be. In my opinion, responses need to be crisp and command-like -almost robotic. Decision: Goal. No Goal. Offside. Statements like ‘That’s fine, perfect!’ leave too much space for confusion. 

Refs Can -and Often – Get It Wrong

I love this bit. I hate how referees at all levels are always quick to defend each other. Many colleagues will rush to their defence even when an official is clearly wrong. It happens on TV. In the Premier League. At the grassroots level too! 

Referees often dismiss coaches, players, and fans as ‘not well informed on the latest changes to the laws of the game. That this error was noticed by a technical member of the team (Oli, the IT guy) should at least cut referees to size. We don’t want compensation. Rather, a simple admittance of error for the benefit of future matches.

Division of Fanbases Hinders the Fight for Better Football Management

Often, I say that I love it when Manchester United suffers the brunt of bad decisions. One reason for that is that I am an Arsenal fan. We have a history. The other reason is that I hope the tears will bring United fans to their senses; and prompt them to join the rest of us in calling for better officiating. This lot openly prides on bad decisions that go its way.

However, it appears that this is not just a United problem. It is a fanbase problem. I have seen some fans online call it tribalism. That would mean something totally different around here. 

It is distasteful that this is being seen as purely a Liverpool problem. They have been pelted with taunts of, “You got your apology; move on!” Their request for the VAR audio was mocked, as was Jurgen Klopp’s opinion that a replay would be the only fair solution. 

I think Liverpool has handled the incident excellently. These week-in week-out apologies do not solve anything. Neither do one and two-week suspensions of violating officials. We need to demand more. Now that there is increasing protection of referees – can’t be approached, can’t be touched, can’t be criticized- there needs to be more demands on them too! 

Sensational Reporting has Created Sensational Audiences

“Klopp Wants a Replay of Liverpool – Spurs” 

This headline has been annoying me to no end. Because I did not hear Klopp say that in his Europa League pre-match conference. It is just clickbait and sensational reporting which has created sensational audiences. 

Klopp says, “The only outcome should be a replay. Probably won’t happen.”

He also says that he’s speaking ‘as a football person,’ not ‘as Liverpool manager.’

In my understanding, Klopp is speaking about the importance of doing things right in football, rather than in this isolated incident.

People are now coming out with games that they want to be replayed. Many are specifically looking for games that involve Liverpool. Milan fans want a replay of Istanbul. Spurs fans want a replay of Madrid. It’s all good banter, but

Tukuweni serious kidogo! Let’s be serious for once!

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