Liverpool have released a scathing statement calling for a wide‑ranging review into how an error by the video assistant referee prevented them from scoring in their 2-1 defeat at Tottenham on Saturday. The Anfield club also warned they would “explore the range of options available” following the VAR controversy and made it clear that “sporting integrity” had been undermined.
The referees’ body, Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) admitted VAR officials Darren England and Dan Cook failed to act after Luis Díaz’s 34th-minute strike at Tottenham was wrongly ruled out for offside.
Still images of the incident showed Cristian Romero playing Díaz onside. The disallowed goal came with the match still goalless before nine-man Liverpool eventually went on to lose 2-1. The officials were stood down from duty for the rest of the weekend but Liverpool will continue to pursue the matter.
Rather than overrule the on-field decision, England called “check complete” because he had not noticed the goal had been disallowed and instead thought the goal had been given by the referee, Simon Hooper.
Liverpool’s statement read: “Liverpool Football Club acknowledges PGMOL’s admission of their failures last night. It is clear that the correct application of the laws of the game did not occur, resulting in sporting integrity being undermined. We fully accept the pressures that match officials work under but these pressures are supposed to be alleviated, not exacerbated, by the existence and implementation of VAR.
“It is therefore unsatisfactory that sufficient time was not afforded to allow the correct decision to be made and that there was no subsequent intervention.
“That such failings have already been categorised as ‘significant human error’ is also unacceptable. Any and all outcomes should be established only by the review and with full transparency. This is vital for the reliability of future decision making as it applies to all clubs with learnings being used to make improvements to processes in order to ensure this kind of situation cannot occur again. In the meantime, we will explore the range of options available, given the clear need for escalation and resolution.”
The two officials had already been dropped from matches before Liverpool’s statement. England was removed from fourth‑official duties for Nottingham Forest’s 1-1 draw with Brentford at the City Ground on Sunday and Cook has been removed from assistant referee duties for Fulham’s game against Chelsea at Craven Cottage on Monday.
PGMOL issued a statement revealing a “significant human error” occurred. Jürgen Klopp was left bewildered by the disallowed goal but cut England some slack. “I am pretty sure whoever made the decision didn’t do it on purpose,” the Liverpool manager said after his team’s first defeat of the season. “It didn’t take extremely long to come to the conclusion. That’s a bit strange but someone else has to explain.”
It has emerged that England and Cook took charge of the game a day after returning from the United Arab Emirates, where they had officiated a fixture between Al-Ain and Sharjah in the UAE Pro League on Thursday. In response, PGMOL has insisted the trip was fairly routine and not hugely different to referees taking part in midweek Champions League matches.
Nevertheless, the error is another episode in a difficult season for PGMOL and its VAR implementation. The first weekend of the season was marred by match officials failing to award Wolves a stoppage-time penalty at Manchester United, leading to Hooper, also the referee that day, Michael Salisbury, the VAR, and Richard West, the AVAR, being dropped from duty for the following round of matches.
Howard Webb, in his second season as PGMOL’s chief refereeing officer, has stressed referees must be accountable for their decisions in an attempt to make the organisation and its working practices more transparent and understood. Webb contacted Liverpool immediately after their defeat. However, this latest error will further and severely test the credibility of all involved. Speaking on Sky Sports after Saturday’s game, Gary Neville said of the Díaz decision: “That is unbelievable. That is a bad one. They said [in the statement], ‘significant’. That is very significant.”
Liverpool are understood to have concerns over the officials travelling back on a seven-hour flight just 24 hours before the game.