Referee back on Prem VAR duty after Liverpool offside error

Will semi-automated offside technology reduce errors in the Premier League? (1:27)

Dale Johnson looks at the pros and cons of semi-automated offside technology after the Premier League unanimously voted to introduce it next season. (1:27)

Referee Darren England will this weekend act as a VAR in the Premier League for the first time since being involved in Luis Díaz's incorrectly disallowed goal in Liverpool's 2-1 defeat at Tottenham on Sept. 30.

England has been appointed as the video referee for Sunday's game between West Ham United and Fulham at the London Stadium -- over six months since his last appointment.

England was stood down from all duties in the weeks following the incident, before first being eased back as fourth official for Brentford's home game against Burnley on Oct. 23.

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However, it has been a long road back to regular Premier League appointments following the mistake, described by PGMOL as "a significant human error." It was nearly three months before England refereed another Premier League match, between Luton Town and Newcastle United on Dec. 23, and he took charge of only two matches through to Feb. 10. During this time England refereed nine games in the Championship, and three FA Cup ties.

Over the last two months England has been brought back into rotation in the Premier League, appointed to six matches.

He first returned to Stockley Park duties for two FA Cup ties, with Michael Oliver operating as support VAR on both occasions. All FA Cup games have two referees in the video hub. England was appointed to the fifth-round tie between AFC Bournemouth and Leicester City in February, and the Chelsea-Leicester quarterfinal last month.

On Thursday, the Premier League announced that it will introduce semi-automated VAR offside technology (SAOT) next season. However, the error on the Díaz goal was primarily around communication rather than the technology, an issue SAOT would not be able to fix though the removal of the manual process should reduce the pressure on the VAR.

Meanwhile, the Premier League's Independent Key Match Incidents Panel has unanimously supported the decision to disallow Wolverhampton Wanderers' late equaliser against West Ham last weekend.

Max Kilman headed home to make it 2-2 at Molineux in the ninth minute of stoppage time, but the goal was ruled out for offside following a VAR review by referee Tony Harrington at the pitchside monitor. Wolves' Tawanda Chirewa was stood in front of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski when Kilman headed the ball towards goal.

"It was a terrible decision," Wolves boss Gary O'Neil said after the game. "It is possibly the worst decision I have ever seen. If your knowledge and understanding of the game is really poor, you could reach the conclusion that is offside."

Wolves chairman Jeff Shi also questioned VAR's remit in a strong statement.

The findings of the Independent Panel, seen by ESPN, state that "Chirewa is clearly in an offside position, in the line of the goalkeeper's vision and in close proximity to the goalkeeper which clearly impacts his decision making. The attacker is making contact with the goalkeeper up until the ball is headed towards goal which restricts what the goalkeeper is able to do."

However, two VAR errors were recorded in the last gameweek with Michael Oliver unanimously deemed to be incorrect in sending off Burnley's Dara O'Shea for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. The panel agreed that there should have been an intervention by the VAR, David Coote, on a split 3-2 vote.

"It is clear the goalkeeper will win possession of the ball so this is not a clear goal-scoring opportunity," the panel stated.

Burnley surprisingly chose not to appeal O'Shea's red card, and he will be suspended for this weekend's game at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.

It's the second time in three games that Burnley have been on end of a VAR error. On March 30, Chelsea were awarded a penalty and Lorenz Assignon was sent off for a challenge on Mykhailo Mudryk, with the panel voting 4-1 that the VAR should have overturned the decision of the referee, Darren England.

The panel also voted 5-0 that Sheffield United's Jack Robinson should have been dismissed by referee Robert Jones after a bad challenge on Cole Palmer, and on a 3-2 vote that the VAR, Paul Tierney, was wrong not to send the referee to the monitor.

"This challenge clearly endangers the safety of the opponent and could have been worse if Palmer didn't take evasive action to jump to avoid the challenge," the panel said.

All other VAR decisions were deemed to be correct, though the panel did believe Aston Villa should have been awarded a penalty for Mathias Jorgensen's challenge on Diego Carlos, though it didn't meet the threshold for the VAR to get involved.

The panel supported on a 4-1 vote no VAR intervention for violent conduct by Tottenham's James Maddison on Nottingham Forest's Ryan Yates, saying "the evidence is not sufficient enough to determine whether this is a clear and obvious error."

There have been 23 missed VAR interventions this season, compared to 24 at the same stage of 2022-23 -- showing that identifying the threshold for a clear and obvious error remains problematic. Incorrect interventions are significantly down, however, with five this season compared to 10 in the previous campaign.

The panel has five members, made up of three former players and/or coaches, plus one representative each from the Premier League and PGMOL. It was set up at the start of last season to give an independent assessment of decision-making rather than relying on the views of PGMOL or the clubs themselves. The judgement is intended to provide an arm's-length assessment of all major match incidents.