The head of the Premier League’s new video assistant referee (VAR) system has defended the controversial technology – telling Sky News “it’s definitely here to stay”.
Neil Swarbrick said critics of the technology need to “just live with it, just grow with it”.
The former referee, who officiated more than 900 games before becoming one of the new system’s lead referees, said that he was sure people would become accustomed to VAR – in time.
Mr Swarbrick explained: “It’s the biggest change in officiating since the start of the Premier League.
“In three, four or five years’ time, people will look back and won’t remember what football was like without VAR.”
VAR has come under fire since its introduction this season, with critics complaining that it stifles the excitement and drama of the game.
Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips told Sky News that, although he was a fan of the new system, he is glad it was not in operation when he was playing.
“Players might get to a point where they might even stop celebrating when they’ve scored a goal because they’re that worried that VAR might pull something back from 30 seconds ago,” he said.
“As much as I do like VAR, being a goalscorer you want to celebrate a goal.”
Mr Swarbrick said that fear was not warranted based on statistics from the 70 English football games in which VAR had already been used.
He added: “208 goals were scored in those 70 games and we only overturned six. It’s very small percentages. So we’re saying, just go celebrate.”
Criticism has also been levelled at the technology used by VAR. It employs the existing system of broadcast cameras, which run at 50 frames per second for live games and 25 frames per second for recorded games, such as the matches played on Saturdays at 3pm.
A camera running at 50 frames per second effectively takes a picture every 0.02 seconds, meaning that fast actions – such as a player’s foot striking a ball – can be caught in the gap between frames.
Mr Swarbrick emphasised that the system was the same for everyone, saying that VAR would still not be able to capture everything even if frame rate speeds were doubled or trebled – a fact confirmed by industry sources.
Broadcasters told Sky News that the frame rate its cameras use were industry standard and unlikely to change in the near future.
The goal decision system uses cameras run by Hawkeye, which have a lower resolution but a higher frame rate, in order to be more exact.