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  1. ITV Report

Former Premier League referee confident VAR will not cause long delays

A former referee has insisted fans do not need to worry about lengthy delays to Premier League matches when the video assistant referee is introduced for the forthcoming season.

The recent Women's World Cup was marred by a plethora of controversial uses of VAR and the time taken to make decisions.

Both the Premier League and Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) will be under the spotlight when the new top-flight campaign begins on August 9, with the video technology being used in the division for the first time.

VAR is used to help officials with four key decisions - goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

But ex-ref Neil Swarbrick has told fans they should not be concerned when it comes to the impact of its introduction on the tempo of Premier League games as the video assistant referees working out of Stockley Park in west London will place a high threshold on when to intervene.

"It is where you set the bar," he said when asked how Premier League officials will ensure minimal time delays.

"Our invention line is very high, over 69 live games we have done so far and we are reviewing a decision one in every five games.

"Against other competitions that is quite good, at the (2018) World Cup there was a review every 3.2 games and the Women's World Cup was a review every 1.9 games.

"We are setting a very high bar as to when we intervene so it is less likely there will be stoppages of any significant length."

Swarbrick - who has worked on training current officials to use VAR effectively - said he could empathise with the officials at the Women's World Cup in France earlier this summer as they had a lack of training with the system before it was rolled out.

"I felt for the competition to be honest, they were in a difficult position where they decided to use the VAR and the majority of referees had no experience whatsoever," he said.

"We have gained advantage of two-and-a-half years of training our officials and utilising it in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup over the last two seasons as well.

"So they were thrown in at the deep end, being asked to use it for the first time. I think they had a seminar before Christmas and then a few games just before the World Cup to go and utilise it.

"We know from experience that the more you work it, the more times you sit as a VAR and referee with VAR the more beneficial it is. It has been tough for them and I can really empathise with the criticism they received."

Despite originally believing VAR would "slow the game down", Premier League newcomer Chris Wilder, the manager of Sheffield United, says he quickly changed his mind about the system.

"We had a visit of the Premier League and they talked us through it and I think I've changed my tune, I think it's going to be really good."

He added: "We're all looking to get as many decisions right as possible and the way they presented it to myself and my staff, I think they will."

Swarbrick believes the level of trust established between the referees set to use VAR for the first time will also be of assistance.

Whereas other competitions have often used match officials and VAR teams from different countries and with little or no prior experience of working together, the Premier League referees are all familiar with one another.

"We have got a close-knit group of referees who do trust each other, work with each other and meet up fortnightly to review decisions," he added.

"Through all the experience they have had, they are comfortable with operating as a referee with VAR, that VAR being one of their colleagues, and if they have made a clear and obvious error they are comfortable with them lads advising them that the decision is incorrect.

"It does save time not going over to the referee review area (RRA), we know on average it takes 60 seconds for the referee to go over to the RRA, review the incident and then another 30 seconds to restart play so it automatically saves 90 seconds."