In a candid revelation, former Premier League official Mike Dean has acknowledged making a significant and erroneous decision during a Manchester United match due to the impact of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.
Dean, who has had a long career as a referee, provided a remarkably honest insight into his experiences working with the controversial VAR technology, which was introduced in 2019. He detailed instances where the system led him to reconsider his initial judgments, sometimes to the detriment of the game’s accuracy.
Speaking on William Hill’s Up Front podcast, Dean admitted, “I’ve probably been over to the screen five or six times and for at least two of them, I could have stuck with my initial decision.” He specifically highlighted a match between Manchester United and Southampton as an example of a “completely wrong” decision he made under the influence of VAR.
In that particular 2021 match, Southampton suffered a humiliating 9-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester United, during which Dean issued a red card to Jan Bednarek for a foul on Anthony Martial inside the penalty area.
Dean’s reflections shed light on the pressure referees face when consulting the VAR screen during a match. He explained, “When I was there, 99 times out of 100 you would change your decision. Because you have gone to the screen, nine times out of 10 you are expected to change your decision.”
The Football Association eventually overturned Bednarek’s red card upon appeal, acknowledging the error in Dean’s decision. The referee’s revelation underscores the challenges posed by the VAR system, which aims to enhance the accuracy of officiating but has also introduced complexities and uncertainties to the game.
Dean further discussed the potential evolution of the VAR culture among referees. He anticipates that officials may become more inclined to uphold their initial decisions made on the field rather than relying solely on VAR reviews. This shift, in his view, could lead to fewer instances of referees being sent to the pitchside monitor for reevaluation.
“I think that will change,” Dean stated. “Because if you made a decision on the pitch and you made the correct call, when you’re walking over to the screen, you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Why am I being sent here? I know what I have seen.’ The more you stick with your on-field decision, the more credibility you get from spectators, managers, and players. Also, it may stop VAR from sending a referee over to the screen every single time something happens. Have they got to go over every time? In my opinion, they haven’t.”
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