Former top flight referee says VAR stays – despite ‘piling additional pressure’ on officials

A FORMER top flight football referee has slammed the use of VAR and insists those in the middle should make final decisions, not those in a ‘warm suite.’

Pete Tyldesley, who officiated at the highest level during a 25-year period, says the implementation of technology in the modern game is undermining referees’ abilities to make on-the-spot calls with confidence.

But the 80-year-old – who began his career in the Hyde Sunday League before taking charge of his last fixture in Ryan Giggs’ Manchester United debut – believes the system, despite its ongoing faults, is here to stay.

Pete Tyldesley, who officiated at the highest level during a 25-year period

He believes, though, more responsibility should go to those actually on the pitch, rather than those watching at Stockley Park.

Mr Tyldesley said: “The referee is the one dealing with 22 players – I don’t know how people sat on the bench feel they can challenge his authority.

“The referee is the man responsible for making decisions on a cold and wet afternoon in front of 70,000 fans.

“Regardless of his experience in making such decisions on numerous occasions throughout his career, it now appears he is dictated to by someone sat in a warm suite looking at a monitor.

“The game is stopping for minutes at a time and piling additional pressure on the referee, while no doubt reducing his confidence to make future decisions.

“For me, the on-field referee should control what VAR does and use his own decision making to action VAR.

“From experience, he should know from a player’s reaction whether to action VAR or not.

“A simple comment in his microphone, such as checking for a possible hand ball at the back post, should be responded to within seconds and then he can take the required action.

“If this only happens once or twice a game, it will result in the referee retaining the respect he deserves with his confidence intact.

“VAR is there to help, unlike its current usage where it’s turned into a forensic investigation.”

Pete’s comments came in the wake of more VAR controversy, not least in the Champions League fixture between FC Copenhagen and Manchester United when Marcus Rashford was dismissed, for what appeared to be, an innocuous challenge on the opposition player.

Pete Tyldesley

United’s numerical disadvantage proved fatal as Erik Ten Hag’s side went on to lose the game 4-3 in the dying stages.

But Pete, who took charge of the first game at Hillsborough following the disaster in 1989, added: “I think no matter what happens VAR is here to stay.

“At the moment, it’s going through more scrutiny than ever before Most fans want it scrapped and it would appear that there are lots of rumblings amongst the managers.

“However, if applied properly it could be a great tool in the referee’s locker as far as I’m concerned. The on-field referee is in charge and not VAR, as seems to be the case.”

While referees have recently come under the microscopic scrutiny of pundits and commentators – not to mention a barrage of abuse from thousands of supporters on match days – Pete advises anyone interested to take up the profession from an early age, as it offers an alternative pathway into the professional game while strengthening mental resilience.

He told The Correspondent: “I would recommend youngsters to play the game at an early age, learning the difference between winning and losing and developing a strong mindset.

“We all have dreams from an early age of playing in front of big crowds in fantastic stadiums, sadly if they haven’t been scouted by their early teens then sadly those dreams won’t materialise.

“However, there is another avenue for boys and girls to travel and that is to take up refereeing.

“There is clear career path to the top, as long as they are strong minded and always show their ambition to progress through the stages. It’s a journey they will find very rewarding.

“My advice is to read the laws of the game, gain an understanding of them but don’t be a slave to them.

“At the end of the day they are black and white, but between them there is a big grey area and remember, you won’t get to the top by quoting them – it’s how you apply them that gets you there.”

The make-up of modern-day football is a far cry from what Pete, during his career, was accustomed to.

Although it has evolved and the football has improved drastically, he believes player-power, both on the pitch and in the changing room, has had a detrimental impact on the game’s values.

He added: “If I look at players of today and those of my era, I’d say they were both pampered in very different ways.

“Take the players of my era – they were pampered but only when they became footballers, as some had habits like going to matches on the bus, then they held their own when it came to the hairdryer treatment and went out with a poor attitude.

“They did it because deep down they were men with some pride. Today, we have players from a different era who have been pampered since they were in nappies.

“So it’s not just the football club, it’s today’s mantra of parents never saying no which has led to players who are destroyed by the hairdryer treatment.

“Their mentality crumbles and, as a result, managers can’t voice their frustrations in an aggressive manner.

“Personally, if I was in the trenches and I needed support, I’d want the crop of players in my era over today’s.”

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