PGMOL Explains Disallowing Villa’s Goal at Old Trafford to Supporters

Accountability over Villa’s Disallowed FA Cup Goal

Over the past year or so the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) have sought to have regular communication with PGMOL to try and get some constructive input and empathy for supporters in the process of VAR.

This is an approach that MOMS has encouraged and MOMS actually tabled a motion at a FSA AGM to help establish the process.

A degree of some kind of direct accountability and transparency of PGMOL’s decisions would certainly be welcome for supporters, especially those who attend games.

Rather than have the debate on VAR via social media rage, surely it would be better for all parties in football to join together to evolve and perfect the process of VAR?

MOMS has been involved in early meetings between the FSA and the VAR body, and now the FSA has a dedicated PGMOL VAR Working Group. This group met with PGMOL on 11th January (via Zoom) to discuss recent events and one incident in particular was a hot topic and of special interest to Villa fans, since the meeting happened a day after Villa’s Third Round FA Cup clash with Manchester United.

It was obviously disappointing for Aston Villa fans (and football fans at large) to see the incident in the cup clash, when a Villa goal was disallowed after a three-and-a-half minute process that seemed to go through several stages in the build-up to actively try and find fault.

What happened to VAR only being used for clear and obvious error? And why did PGMOL foresenically go back over several incidents until seemingly fault could be found?

The overruling of the goal was the first topic to be discussed at the meeting.

The main concern was that it had been previously stated by PGMOL, that if a decision couldn’t be made quickly, it would go with the on-field decision.

So what happened at Old Trafford?

Villa’s Disallowed FA Cup Goal

Adam Gale-Watts of PGMOL’s reply was as follows:

Clearly the focus is to minimise any delay to the game whilst also arriving at the best outcome. In this specific situation three elements were considered in the goal check:

1. Ramsey and Buendia were potentially in an offside position

2. Possible accidental handball by Ings

3. Did Watkins touch/play the ball before Ings scored, for a possible offside?

The VAR looked at the full attacking phase and then checked #2 as its objective. Review of the footage confirmed Ings hadn’t handled the ball.

VAR also considered #1, which was a subjective interpretation of offside – Ramsay is clearly in an offside position – so the question is whether his action impacts the ability of an opponent to play or challenge for the ball?

On balance, it was deemed he had.

#2 was checked as if Ings had accidentally handled the ball that would be factual an typically quick to determine.

Like all situations it is reviewed from both a process and principles perspective with a view to learning what went well and opportunities for what could be enhanced.

We recognise the process could be quicker in the future based on the learning around it, particularly when dealing with multiple situations in one “goal” and which is reviewed first.

There is also an educational point for analysts/pundits, as when the offside situation involves a subjective judgement such as impacting the ability of the opponent or clearly obstructing the line of vision (typically the goalkeeper) the referee will go to the pitch side monitor to review the footage.

Over the course of the meeting, PGMOL agreed that communication in stadiums could be improved e.g. a incident at Turf Moor where VAR was consulted and side with the ref’s decision, but the crowd were not informed.

Learning on the Job?

Is this answer being pedantic, in terms of VAR analysing play? Is it in the spirit of the game? Can such due diligence be done quickly in reality?

Why hasn’t the concept of dealing with potential multiple incidents within one moment, been considered more fully in advance?

What hasn’t been answered here is the notion that VAR should only be used for clearing up ‘clear and obvious’ errors. That surely wouldn’t need three-and-a-half minutes to do?


Click here to access the full minutes of the FSA/PGMOL meeting

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  1. They’ve learned nothing at all, evidenced by the Diogo Jota penalty being given to Liverpool against Palace. That one should be being investigated by the Met alongside partygate.

  2. The mere fact that they are still trying to justify this decision says everything you need to will always be one rule for the red team and a different rule for the opposition.if this goal had been for the red team at the Stretford end it would have been given, of that I have no doubt whatsoever.

  3. It was disallowed for a deliberate American football style block on the defender, not for any of the above reasons ????

  4. Are they saying that they didn’t check #3 (“3. Did Watkins touch/play the ball before Ings scored, for a possible offside?”) because on BBC feed it very much appeared to show that they did several times over. It looked like they checked 2 and 3 in depth before 1.

    I also find it interesting that they place Ramsey/Buendia offside as the no.1 point suggesting it was of priority and most importance, yet they went through 2 and 3 in detail before even looking at 1.

    Post-hoc rationalisation of a questionable “forensic” analysis. It does nothing to change my mind about how it came across. Throw the lack of check for the Konsa incident and that sour taste is still sour.

  5. if the above is the case why wasn’t konsa getting his shirt ripped off his back during a corner not pulled up as this was obvious error by ref and resulted in him unable to jump for the header ..
    answer is simple var has been told to help in the advance of the top six clubs. as the revenue is higher if teams like man utd or chelsea are in a final as appose to villa and watford.

  6. Honestly, VAR is actively putting me off watching football. I’d rather watch non-league football than sit through this every week.

    Which raises another objection to the incident – in the cup, it was one rule for one club, one for another. Man United vs Villa featured VAR. Other ties played at lower league grounds did not. If this goal was scored at a lower league ground, it would have stood. That’s simply not acceptable. If you can’t pay a rule to all clubs in the competition, you shouldn’t apply the rule.

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