PGMOL chief Howard Webb addresses Sheffield United VAR incidents following refereeing error

Sheffield United saw a goal ruled out by VAR in their defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday
Referee Stuart Attwell checks the VAR screen at Bramall Lane Referee Stuart Attwell checks the VAR screen at Bramall Lane
Referee Stuart Attwell checks the VAR screen at Bramall Lane

Sheffield United were right to see a goal ruled out by VAR in their loss to Brighton and Hove Albion at the weekend, says PGMOL chief Howard Webb. The Blades were thumped 5-0 by the Seagulls on Sunday at Bramall Lane as Chris Wilder's side struggled to cope with 10 men following Mason Holgate's red card.

However, the result could have been very different had Ben Osborn's effort in the first half been allowed to stand. United were already 2-0 down when the ball hit the back of Bart Verbruggen's net, with Osborn managing to direct a corner goalwards. The referee's assistant immediately flagged for what he believed to be a foul on the goalkeeper and after a VAR review, the goal was ruled out but for an offside offence against Osborn.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The ball had visibly collided with a Brighton player on its way to Osborn, leading to bemusement with the decision made by VAR Michael Oliver and the on-field referee Stuart Attwell. However, former Premier League referee Webb, who is now the chief operating officer at PGMOL, the organisation that oversees the league's officials, believes the right decision was made.

“I think it’s the assistant referee on the far side who, on this set-piece has been given the specific responsibility by the referee of focusing on the goalkeeper because obviously, on a set-piece, there’s a lot to look at for a couple of officials there so they designate different areas of responsibility," he said on the latest episode of Match Officials: Mic'd Up. “He sees that coming-together.

"He thinks Osborn has grabbed hold of the goalkeeper’s arm and they penalise. When the VAR looks at it, he doesn’t really see anything that’s worthy of being penalised. He sees a bit of a coming-together, but then he sees the goalkeeper reset. He’s not really impacted by that and determines that’s not a foul. But, of course, we’re not only looking at that, we’re looking at the rest of the phase of play that leads up to that situation, including whether or not any players are in an offside position.

“When he looks at that, he sees that Ben Osborn is in an offside position when the ball is last played by a Sheffield United player. Yes, it hits Buonanotte before going to Osborn, but that’s only a deflection and therefore Osborn still is in an offside position, committing an offside offence right in front of the goalkeeper.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I’m not sure if he gets the touch or whether it’s Ahmedhodzic that puts it in, but it doesn’t matter. It’s in front of the goalkeeper. He commits an offside offence and it’s rightly intervened upon by the VAR to confirm the disallowing of the goal, but for a different reason than the one that was actually given on the field.”

He added: “We restart with an indirect free-kick. So good process, good identification. If there had been no offside, I know the VAR would have intervened to have this goal awarded because he recognised a clear and obvious error in the first decision, the foul on the goalkeeper, which he doesn’t think exists.”

Webb also discussed the late penalty incident against West Ham United last month as Anel Ahmedhodzic came together with Jarrod Bowen in the Blades penalty area. Michael Salisbury ruled in favour of United on that occasion, with Bowen adjudged to have pulled the defender over with him in the area. The Blades claimed a 2-2 draw on that occasion and Webb was happy with the decision made, pointing to Bowen's arm on the Bosnian's shoulder.

“When the VAR looked at that, knowing that the on-field decision by the referee was a free-kick to Sheffield United for a foul by Bowen. He sees quite clearly that the arm of Bowen is on the shoulder of Ahmedhodzic and pulls him towards the West Ham attacker and then they fall over," he said.

“The Sheffield United player is actually looking at the ball most of the time. He’s trying to maintain his view on the ball, and he only can't do that when he's pulled by Bowen."

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.