ROGER Dilkes, Mossley’s former Premier League referee, believes video assistant referees are a necessity in top-flight football.
The 69-year-old from Hey Farm maintains once the initial teething problems are resolved during experiments in the current campaign, it will become an integral part of the game as it has become in both codes of rugby.
Dilkes, technical director of You Are The Ref, said: “VAR is needed as today’s players are also athletes and the game has speeded up dramatically due to this and also playing surfaces being magnificent.
“It doesn’t matter how fit or mobile the referee is, there will always be situations when they will not see what has happened. Either someone runs across their line or they are at the wrong angle.
“Those are situations where technology will help and anything to help improve the quality of referees’ decisions can only be right.
“It is different to goalline technology, that shows whether the ball has crossed the line, VAR is different because it is subjective.”
Dilkes, who monitors VAR closely through his work with You Are The Ref, has identified the areas where improvements are needed:
• Video assistant referees need more training.
• When VAR is used, a system is needed in stadiums to inform fans what is happening.
Dilkes says there has to be trust between the VAR and referee, and once that is achieved with better training, the number of calls and communications will reduce and the process will speed up – the main complaint.
“I was at the Liverpool v Tottenham game and the problem was it took so long to make a ruling, but at the end of the day they got every decision right,” he said.
Dilkes continued: “The playing public like the game to be non-stop and for the game to be flowing and don’t like disruptions.
“On the other side of the coin when a clear and obvious error is made, in the present climate the financial benefits of a goal being scored or disallowed can be immense. And at the end of the day people want correct decisions made.
“The evidence from Major League Soccer, where VAR has been introduced, is that the number of interventions reduced over the season.”
Dilkes added there has only been one glaring error so far in the games in which VAR has been trialled – that was the incident in the Chelsea v Norwich Emirates FA Cup tie when Brazilian Willian was booked for diving when a penalty ought to have been awarded.
Referee Graham Scott had referred the incident to VAR Mike Jones who deemed it was not a spot kick when the majority of people thought it was a penalty, with the decision down to subjectivity.
Dilkes added it is far tougher refereeing today then when he retired in 1998.
He said: “There were 20-odd cameras at televised games I refereed, but not as many cameras at other Premier League grounds.
“Referees and their assistants are under more scrutiny than ever and players can be punished retrospectively for spitting, elbowing and making reckless challenges that are picked up by the cameras after being missed by the referee.
“There is even a panel that can punish players retrospectively for diving.”
Dilkes added Premier League and Championship referees are now full time whereas in his day they were part time – he was also head of human resources at the Co-op in Manchester.
After playing in the youth and ‘A’ teams for Huddersfield Town and Rochdale and later non-league, Dilkes turned to refereeing in his mid-twenties when he realised he wasn’t destined for the big time.
It proved a wise decision as Dilkes made the Football League line by the age of 30 and refereeing three years later.
Since retiring he has been a referees’ assessor and when a coaching system was set up for premier League and Football League referees, he was selected as one of the first five coaches.
Since 2012, Dilkes has been heavily involved with You Are The Ref, an organisation set up by former Football League referee Jock Waugh, and he became technical director.
He devised ref cam in which a live blog of the referee’s performance in live televised games are featured on their website.
The purpose of You Are The Ref is about educating referees and also footballer followers by discussing topical issues. There is also a weekly podcast that can be viewed on the website.
You Are The Ref, which has former referees’ chief Keith Hackett, Mark Clattenburg, and Mark Halsey on its team, also has an academy in which referees pay a subscription to access to special webinars and get individual help and advice if needed. There are hundreds enrolled from all over the world.
They also offer refereeing scholarships that involve coaching and kit sponsorship.
You Are The Ref also stages the Youdan Trophy, its own U14 and U16 tournaments in Sheffield attracting some of the biggest clubs in the world. It is an opportunity for academy referees to officiate.
They also run training camps for referees and have staged them in South America, North America, including three in Los Angeles, and throughout the UK.
Away from football, Dilkes has been president of Saddleworth Cricket, Bowling and Tennis Club for 20 years.
When he was a referee he trained on the cricket ground and when the old pavilion was burned down was asked to help to secure Lottery funding for a replacement. That was successful and as a thank you he was invited to become president.
Dilkes, who played cricket for Flowery Field in his youth, is still heavily involved in the running of the club.