Coronavirus pandemic means Premier League might ditch VAR when season resumes over social distancing issues

The Premier League could abandon the use of VAR when the 2019/20 season gets back under way, reports claim.

The coronavirus pandemic has suspended matches in England’s top-flight until at least April 30, and it is believed when football does return it will be played behind closed doors for some time.

VAR has divided opinion among football fans this season
Getty Images – Getty

And the Daily Mail say there are concerns over video assistant referees being infected or spreading the disease, with a team of three officials operating in a small room at Stockley Park for each match.

Forcing three officials into close proximity would go against the government’s social distancing guidelines if they were still in place by the time football returns.

Alternatives include VAR technology being used at stadiums or remotely in specially equipped vans.

It is understood the Premier League and the PGMOL will begin talks over whether VAR is used amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg is of the opinion VAR cannot be used until social distancing measures are relaxed, but he also believes football cannot resume until VAR can continue to be used.

VAR has had its fair share of controversial moments since its introduction
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He told the Mail: “If social distancing is still being enforced when the football season is finally resumed, then there is no way the VAR bunker at Stockley Park could be used.

“Certainly not if there are multiple Premier League matches being played at the same time.

“It all takes place in one windowless room. Each team consists of a VAR, an assistant and a Hawk-Eye operator, who work together in close quarters with a collection of monitors in front of them.

“Maybe if one match was played at a time, then they could spread out, be given a desk each, keep their distance and get on with the job.

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The government has also issued further detail on what we can do during lockdown.

Everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading.

“Another solution is you could place the officials in vans outside of the stadiums, and make sure they stay two metres apart in there, too.

“But in reality, I don’t see how football can start again until social distancing is completely relaxed by the government.

“There are too many risks involved. You couldn’t restart the season without VAR either, because then that would distort the competition.

“Imagine if Aston Villa were relegated because of an offside goal or a decision that VAR would have overturned had it happened earlier in the campaign? The fallout would be huge.”