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Keith Hackett column: PGMOL deserve praise despite Martin Atkinson’s wrong penalty award at Newcastle

There was no doubt in my mind that last season we witnessed, on a weekly basis, the worst standard of officiating in the Premier League since its formation.

I was not alone in that opinion, one only had to listen and read what was being said in the media.

When we witnessed the quality of officiating at Euro 2020, pressure was clearly going to focus on the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) to change and improve.

The PGMOL in pre-season statements made it clear that they would change and adopt the same ‘light touch’ approach witnessed in the tournament, and also included in this was how they would operate VAR.

The highlight of the opening games of the new season was that referees quickly adapted to this new approach, and what a delight to say that the majority of games passed without incident.

Yes, I thought referee Martin Atkinson’s award of a penalty kick at Newcastle was wrong and VAR should have intervened.

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Referee Coote should also have disallowed Burnley’s goal when James Tarkowski pushed his opponent, Brighton’s Neal Maupay, before scoring.

However, I want to focus on what I consider to be the real positive of the weekend.

Manchester United’s fourth goal would have been ruled out for offside last season, one of the twenty that the PGMOL admit were close calls (a toe offside for example).

I have written on a regular basis about the nonsense of how the PGMOL were operating VAR offside decisions last season.

Former Premier League and FIFA referee Keith Hackett is a columnist for

So, when Bruno Fernandes looked on first view to be offside, when he was passed the ball in their game vs Leeds United, I was delighted that VAR operated perfectly and the goal was allowed to stand.

The new VAR offside procedure announced by the PGMOL is what we witnessed in the Euros and, in this decision it effectively reintroduces the benefit of the doubt to the attacking player.

In a really close offside situation, the PGMOL will carry on following the same processes that they did last year with VAR. They will apply the one-pixel lines, placing the defending line and then the attacking line.

The change is that they will then put on the thicker broadcast lines and where they overlap, those situations will now be deemed as onside.

There will also be a difference in how VAR decisions on potential offsides will be conveyed to TV viewers, and we will not see on our screens the rather boring process of the VAR operators positioning the lines and slowing up the process.

It worked brilliantly this weekend on this one goal and the changes have seen praise heaped  on officials.

PGMOL – well done in accepting that change is for the better, it took too long.

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