PGMOL chief Howard Webb opens up on VAR disaster for Luis Diaz offside

Chief refereeing officer Howard Webb has spoken out on the VAR debacle that led to Luis Diaz's goal against Tottenham being incorrectly disallowed.

Diaz's legitimate strike in Liverpool's highly-contentious defeat to Spurs was ruled out for offside by the on-field officials, while a communication error stopped the VAR from correcting referee Simon Hooper's initial decision.

The blunder was put down to 'significant human error' by refereeing body the PGMOL, who also released audio footage between Hooper, VAR Darren England and AVAR Dan Cook showing how the embarrassing incident occurred.

READ MORE: the top 5 moments from Luis Diaz offside VAR audio – ranked

Liverpool ultimately lost the game 2-1 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Joel Matip's stoppage-time own goal condemning the Reds to a first defeat in 2023/24.

However, with Diaz's disallowed strike coming when the game was still goalless and Jurgen Klopp's side also suffering two controversial red card decisions, the officiating became the main talking point in the days following the match as Liverpool pushed for an investigation.

Webb spoke about Diaz decision on Match Officials: Mic'd Up – which broadcasts the conversations between the referee and VAR officials – on Tuesday, where he claimed 'nobody is more disappointed' with the error than the officials.

He said: "We took the unusual step of releasing the audio from this situation not long after it happened. We wanted to show everybody what was very quickly apparent to us that it was a significant human error and loss of concentration. We're all disappointed the VAR system didn't step in to rectify the clear error we'd seen on the field with the disallowing of the goal.

"Nobody is more disappointed than the officials themselves. They take pride in their work, they want to be a positive influence on the game, but in this situation it wasn't the case. Of course without VAR that disallowed goal would still have been a disallowed goal but VAR exists to step in when we make a wrong decision on the field. So of course we're disappointed. Our job then was to try to find out what happened and what we can do to prevent that sort of thing happening again in the future."

Going over the incident, Webb identified the areas where improvements to the VAR process is required to ensure similar failures don't happen again.

He said: "One of the things that has been brought into sharp focus is the need to reiterate some of those communication protocols that are really valuable in VAR, to prevent this type of thing happening. We want the on-field referee to communicate to the VAR what the on-field decision is very clearly and VAR to go back to referee and acknowledge they have heard that properly. The VAR goes through the process of checking the situation and giving clear direction to the replay operator to get the right angles, speaking to the assistant VAR as they are going through that as well so that the assistant VAR can be another check and balance.

"Before communicating to the field, speaking to the AVAR what their intended direction of travel is going to be, and not just saying 'check complete' - because what are you check completing? Say 'check complete, goal confirmed'. In this case, 'check complete, offside confirmed'. That is then another trigger to the on-field officials that they are going in the wrong direction. We have put a lot of steps in place to ensure the error we saw in that important game doesn't happen again."

Asked why the referee could not stop the game after play had restarted, Webb said: "They recognised that the laws of the game, set by FIFA and the IFAB, doesn't allow that.

"There's obviously a process in place that sits in the laws of the game... And it doesn't allow you to go back in those circumstances."

Following the unprecedented mix-up, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp admitted he believed a replay would be a fair solution, but later walked back his comments claiming they were misinterpreted by the press, saying: "If I made the impression that I was still in [Saturday's] game, we are not.

"We are over it. We are not children. That is it. From a focus point of view there was not a problem."

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