A review is underway into the errors that led to Luis Diaz’s goal being disallowed for offside, with VAR Darren England and assistant VAR Dan Cook, who failed to overturn the on-field decision after replays showed the Colombian was onside, having been left off the list of officials for the next round of Premier League matches.
Referees’ governing body PGMOL have sent Liverpool the audio of the exchanges from Sunday between referee Simon Hooper and those in the VAR room at Stockley Park, which the club will now review.
In a strongly worded statement on Sunday, Liverpool argued that sporting integrity had been “undermined” and said they would “explore the range of options available, given the clear need for escalation and resolution”.
But what did Liverpool hope to achieve with that statement and what kind of resolution would satisfy them? The Athletic has contacted a number of senior figures at the club — who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their positions — to get a clearer idea of the answers to those questions.
Do they want a replay?
No. Liverpool fully accept the outcome of Saturday’s game. They lost 2-1 following Joel Matip’s own goal deep into stoppage time having been reduced to nine men following red cards for Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota. That’s not going to change. Despite all the noise on social media, there’s been no demand for the match to be replayed and there won’t be one.
So, what do they want?
Liverpool want a transparent investigation into the procedural failings so lessons are learned going forward.
Their immediate priorities are to establish what form the review will take, who will oversee it and what role the Premier League will play in it. The audio should provide a clearer understanding into how and why Diaz’s goal was disallowed.
They want to know why the decision was taken so quickly and why there was no intervention when the mix-up quickly became apparent.
Is their anger directed at Darren England?
No. In their statement, Liverpool attempted to move the focus away from the VAR himself and they weren’t happy with PGMOL blaming “significant human error”.
Liverpool insist it’s about their focus is on the process rather than the individual. The laws of the game were not applied and the correct outcome wasn’t reached due to a failure of VAR protocols.
Liverpool insist it would be massively unfair to simply pin the blame on England, who wrongly believed the goal had been awarded on the field and told Hooper “check complete” after drawing the lines and confirming Diaz was onside.
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What about the referees’ trip to the UAE?
England, Cook and Saturday’s fourth official Michael Oliver were all on duty in the United Arab Emirates just 48 hours before Liverpool faced Tottenham.
Liverpool believe that work engagements in the build-up to Saturday’s game should be scrutinised as part of the review amid concerns over the impact of fatigue on officials due to the long-haul travel and whether that affected their preparation.
The trio only returned to London on Friday after an eight-hour flight following Sharjah’s match against Al-Ain, a lucrative trip which was approved by the Football Association.
It’s common practice for English referees to officiate in UEFA competitions in midweek and then return to Premier League duty the following weekend, but this was further afield.
There’s also a potential conflict of interest if referees are doing freelance work in countries with close ties to Premier League clubs — Manchester City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour, is the vice president and deputy prime minister of the UAE, although City insist they are not state-owned.
But Liverpool’s focus is on the impact of so much travel so close to Saturday’s game and whether that impaired judgement.
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Does Liverpool’s frustration stem from previous run-ins with officials?
Liverpool insist their response has been shaped solely by Saturday’s incident and they haven’t brought anything else into it.
There was “full alignment” behind the scenes when it came to drafting and submitting Sunday’s statement, with Jurgen Klopp and the owners in agreement that the club needed to make a stand given that it was an unprecedented situation. PGMOL chief Howard Webb has contacted senior figures at Liverpool since Saturday to apologise for the mistakes that they made.
What about all the other teams who have suffered at the hands of VAR errors?
Liverpool insist this isn’t just about them. They aren’t asking for special treatment. They believe a fully transparent review which leads to improvements in the VAR process will benefit all clubs and help ensure a similar situation doesn’t happen again.
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(Top photos: Getty Images)