English referee body PGMOL has released the VAR tapes of the moments around, confirming what had been apparent almost immediately after play swiftly resumed in the 34th minute, an almighty communication blunder had cost Luis Diaz a goal.
Video and audio from the incident confirms that VAR Darren England and his assistant Dan Cook swiftly and correctly -- referee Simon Hooper's line "well done boys, good process" is sure to live in infamy -- established that Diaz had been onside when Salah's through ball found him running in behind the Tottenham defense. However, they seemed utterly unaware that the on-field assistant had flagged Diaz offside.
Within a matter of moments England is saying "check complete, check complete. That's fine, perfect". Hooper does what any referee would in those circumstances and gets play rolling again, a moment that plays out like a Stockley Park horror movie as the replay operator states "wait, wait, wait, wait. The onfield decision was offside. Are you happy with this?"
If any moment typifies the total breakdown in communication it comes from Cook. "Offside, goal, yeah." It takes 12 seconds to dawn on England what has happened.
The PGMOL hub's desperate cries of delay are in vain, once the game has resumed there is no recourse to call it back for the goal that wasn't. All England can do is repeat his line "I can't do anything." It is immediately apparent that something has gone disastrously wrong.
It is no less clear what the obvious fix is, beyond not making the error in the first place. At no stage in the conversation between the VAR officials at Stockley Park and those at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium does either party say the word "goal," nor, in communicating his decision, does England say whether it should be awarded, disallowed, overturned or any comparable word. This is less closed-loop communication, more word rollercoaster.
One of the actions PGMOL has vowed to take from this incident is the introduction of new communication protocols that will "enhance the clarity of communication between the referee and the VAR team in relation to on-field decisions". An additional step will also be added to the process with the lead VAR official to confirm their decision with the assistant before relaying it to the match officials. Such changes are unlikely to resolve the antipathy many in England feel towards technology in the game but it would be reasonably to expect that there should not be many repeat events like the goal so clumsily robbed from Diaz.
Notably there was no reference to semi-automated offside technology, used in UEFA competition and Serie A to take the yes-no of whether a player is onside out of human hands. Adoption of this would have to come from Premier League clubs, who did not even vote on the prospect in the summer.
PGMOL's statement also said: "We recognize standards fell short of expectations and acknowledged the error to Liverpool immediately after the conclusion of the fixture. A detailed report, including the key learnings and immediate actions taken, alongside the audio between the on-field officials and VAR team has been submitted to the Premier League, who have shared it with Liverpool FC and subsequently all other Premier League clubs."
Liverpool are yet to respond to the release. Their stunning statement on Monday, in which they vowed to "explore the range of options available" added fuel to the fire around VAR, one which has smouldered in the English game ever since Premier League added the officials in the 2019-20 season.
Another significant factor in criticism of England and Cook had been their officiating at a match between Al-Ain and Sharjah in the UAE Pro League on Thursday. PGMOL was said to have initially indicated that this was little different to officials taking part in European fixtures in midweek before returning to their domestic assignments. Today they announced: "PGMOL and The FA have also agreed to review the policy to allow match officials to officiate matches outside of FIFA or UEFA appointments."