Most controversial VAR decisions revealed ahead of Premier League

By | August 9, 2021
Reading Time: 2 minutes


  • Kurt Zouma’s cancelled strike against Manchester United was named the most controversial VAR incident.
  • 30.92% of all English Premier League matches have seen a VAR intervention.
  • The data also shows a 23.96% year-on-year decrease in average VAR controversy.
  • The Premier League appears to be tracking UEFA’s roll out, with changes made just 0.62% more frequently in the English top flight.
  • PGMOL has announced a string of new rule changes.

The Premier League is hoping a string of new rule changes can inject new life into VAR technology when the 30th Premier League season gets underway on 13th August.

From thicker offside lines to new handball rules, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) has set out its stall for the 2021-2022 domestic campaign which is almost upon us.

Accidental handballs in the build-up to goals will no longer be deemed an offence, while thicker offside lines will be used in order to eliminate situations where a goal is ruled out due to a toenail being offside.

And following a string of ‘armpit offsides’ last season, FIFA has also clarified that the bottom of a players’ armpit is to be classed as part of a players’ body.

While the technology’s use in the English top-flight has courted more than its fair share of detractors, Credible or VAR-cical by William Hill, can reveal a good level of progress has already been made with average controversy dropping by 29.36% last season.

The controversy rating of an incident, of which there has been 235 in total over the last two seasons, now sits at 5.14 having been 6.76 during its turbulent debut season. That equates to a change made by VAR every 3.23 matches.

Across the 504 matches under UEFA’s jurisdiction, from February 2019 through to the 2021 Champions League Final, there were 157 changes made, or a change every 3.21 matches.

Kurt Zouma’s cancelled strike against Manchester United in February 2020, ruled out by VAR official Chris Kavanagh, is considered the most controversial VAR call in Premier League history, with a controversy score of 10.7.

William Hill’s Credible or VAR-cical analysis has been tracking Premier League VAR incidents ever since Gabriel Jesus was ruled offside by David Coote on August 10, 2019 (the first ever VAR review in EPL history – rated at 7.92).

The data shows that in total, there have been a total of 235 incidents, or interventions, logged, with reactionary metrics such as Tweet volume, sentiment, articles generated and associated levels of engagement, culminating in a bespoke controversy rating being assigned to each.

Across the last two domestic campaigns, Wolverhampton (6.91) are the club which has been embroiled in the most controversial VAR incidents. Chelsea (6.5), Liverpool (6.34), Everton (6.25), Manchester United (6.19) make up the top five.

Brentford-based official Chris Kavanagh, who was promoted to the Select Group of referees in 2017, lands himself the unenviable title of ‘most controversial video assistant referee’, averaging 6.8.

David Coote (6.67), Kevin Friend (6.59), Lee Mason (6.51) and Andre Marriner (6.35) make up the rest of the top 5.


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