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Bristol City’s Nigel Pearson pleas for referees to be mic’d up and talks VAR

Bristol City’s Nigel Pearson pleas for referees to be mic’d up and gives his thoughts on VAR following a controversial game against Hull City.

He, along with a number of supporters, say that football should follow rugby union and give referees microphones for more transparency around decision making.

The Robins lost their opening fixture of the new season 2-1 to the Tigers on Saturday, during which Hull were awarded a penalty that caused a fair bit of anger.

Pearson also says he VAR to be brought into the Championship, after the video assistant referee system was used in the EFL for the first time in May’s playoff finals.

“It should help them and it makes them [referees] more accountable,” Pearson told BBC Radio Bristol.

“I also think what we should adopt in football – which for some unknown reason the powers that be will not go down that route – is to do what they do in rugby and to mic them up so we can hear what’s being said, so it’s all transparent, there’s nothing to hide.

“Technology should be there to help the officials.

“I think it would be better for the game if there was transparency as to what the process is when decisions are made. I don’t know why they don’t do that. Maybe they’re afraid?”

Referees wear microphones in rugby union for international and top league matches, which fans inside the stadium and staff on both teams can listen in to as officiating decisions are made.

A television match official (TMO) is also available, for the referee on the pitch to consult with and review incidents around scoring and foul play.

VAR was first used in the Premier League in 2019 to review “clear and obvious errors” in four game-changing incidents; goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity.

However, the rules have been adjusted since, including referees now being encouraged to use pitchside monitors more often.

During the match with Hull on the 30th of July, the referee gave the home side a penalty which levelled the score to 1-1, when Kai Naismith was adjudged to have brought down Benjamin Tetteh.

In his post-match interview, Pearson said there was “absolutely” no contact, though photos say different, and if anything it’s the timing the player went down.

“Did we have some poor decisions against us? Absolutely yes.” Pearson continued.

“I’ve heard the argument about the fact that some grounds aren’t set up for it [VAR]. When you look at the standard of a lot of the stadiums in the Championship, I don’t know whether that’s an argument which is valid to be honest.

“We can have a system which helps the officials to come to a decision but, like I say, they shouldn’t have anything to hide.

“I think we should be able to hear what they’re saying at least then we all know in the stadium what the reasons are.”

As Bristol City’s Nigel Pearson pleas for referees to be mic’d up and talks VAR, the EFL have given referees new instructions on fouls, time wasting and player behaviour.

Officials will be told to increase their threshold of fouls, cut down on those who run the clock down and ensure behaviour from footballers don’t overstep the mark.

The PA news agency understands the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the governing body of match officials in England, is committed to making the EFL a better product for the forthcoming campaign, which gets under way this weekend.

It has worked with clubs, the English Football League, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and League Managers Association (LMA) to make sure the key decisions made are acceptable to everyone in the game.

Officials have been instructed to adopt a higher threshold for penalising contact in challenges, taking into account how much contact there was, the consequences of it and what the attacking player’s motivation was. They will also be more careful watching for possible danger or difficulties of sustained holding at set-pieces.

After the 2021-22 campaign saw less playing time than ever before, referees will also be more proactive in curbing time-wasting and will be prepared to sanction players early on in the game. Participation behaviour will also be managed to ensure incidents of dissent and other poor behaviour are stamped out.

As well as the introduction of five substitutions this season, there is also a minor law change which sees goalkeepers now allowed to have one foot behind the goalline during a spot kick being taken.

Although last season’s playoff finals at Wembley had video assistant referee (VAR), the decision-review system won’t be in place for the forthcoming campaign. The PGMOL is on a FIFA Working Group to help develop ‘VAR Light’ and its possible use, and that would be offered to the EFL if collectively the clubs in each division vote to implement it.

That wouldn’t be a quick thing to happen, though, with around 12 months needed to set it up, get it in grounds, have the officials for it etc. The EFL campaign kicks off on Friday as Huddersfield play host to Burnley in the Championship.

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