Steve Cooper Calls For VAR Re-Think As Rule Makers Look To Protect Referees

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Steve Cooper manager of Nottingham Forest looks on during the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Brighton & Hove Albion at City Ground on November 25, 2023 in Nottingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ritchie Sumpter/NFFC via Getty Images)

Steve Cooper Calls For VAR Re-Think As Rule Makers Look To Protect Referees


By David Williams

Steve Cooper has joined the growing army of managers who want a VAR re-boot after claiming it is creating “animosity inside stadia”.

The Nottingham Forest boss – one of two Welsh managers currently working in the Premier League – blamed the VAR system for poisoning the atmosphere after a stormy clash last weekend in his club’s 3-2 home defeat to Brighton.

It ended with players squaring up to each other at full-time following the Seagulls’ celebrations.

“I want to be in the camp of supporting referees but VAR is clearly having a massive negative impact,” said Cooper.

“It has caused animosity on the pitch and in the stadium and that’s where we are at the moment.”

Former Swansea City manager Cooper was angered when referee Anthony Taylor awarded Brighton a 58th minute penalty, scored by Joao Pedro, for a foul on the Brazilian by Forest’s Chris Wood.

That made it 3-1 to Brighton, but Taylor then made another call driven by VAR, awarding a penalty to Forest for a foul on Callum Hudson-Odoi.

A Lewis Dunk sending off was clarified as a yellow for encroaching too close to the VAR screen followed just 20 seconds later by a straight red for foul and abusive language.

On the first penalty, Cooper added: “I’m not wanting to jump on bandwagon, but then you see that from Anthony – one of the top ones (referees) – it’s hard to hold back.”

Cooper’s comments come when trials designed to stop players surrounding referees during flashpoint moments could get the green light at a meeting of football’s lawmaking body in London on Tuesday.

Tackling poor participant behaviour is a top priority for the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and it is set to be the dominant topic at the organisation’s annual business meeting at a Heathrow hotel.

Players surrounding referees and assistants after controversial incidents has become a common sight in the modern game, but the IFAB is determined to limit contact in such situations to a respectful dialogue between the referee and the team captain.

Precisely how that is achieved is still to be worked out, with the IFAB understood to be keen to run some initial tests in the amateur game to work out the practicalities and iron out the unintended consequences of any new restrictions.

One consideration is the creation of a ‘no go zone’ around an official which only a captain can enter, but testing will be required to see how effective and practical this is in reality.

Approval of trials in top-level competitions could be granted on Tuesday to follow those initial tests, with lawmakers keen to move quickly on this issue.

Sin-bins for bad behaviour, which have been utilised in grassroots youth football, could also be extended into the adult amateur game, while measures to combat mass confrontations between teams, such as cooling down periods, will also be discussed.

Guidance could also be issued around stricter application of the existing laws of the game which tackle time-wasting, such as better enforcement of the six-second rule for goalkeepers to release the ball and treatment and assessment of ‘tactical injuries’ designed to break the momentum of the game.

In March, the IFAB issued guidance to all competitions on more accurately calculating time lost to stoppages, following on from a concerted effort to do so at last year’s men’s World Cup finals in Qatar.

A discussion will also be held on updating the handball law for next season. The law could be changed so that an unintentional handball which denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is only sanctioned with a yellow card rather than a red, and that an unintentional handball which stops a promising attack receives no card at all.

The IFAB board is also set to receive a short update on the ongoing permanent concussion substitute trial.

World players’ union FIFPRO and the World Leagues Forum have previously called for a trial of temporary concussion substitutes, but there is not even the possibility of such a trial taking place until the ongoing testing of permanent concussion substitutes is complete and data from the trial has been fully analysed.

The IFAB announced last month that a group had been established to carry out a review of VAR protocols, and there is also expected to be some time given over to hearing an update on the group’s progress.


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