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Aircraft pilots assisted by referees in VAR

“British Airways pilots are assisting English Premier League referees with Video Assistant Referee (VAR) usage. According to The Times and BBC, referees are receiving support not just from VAR but also from air traffic controllers in their process of reviewing decisions. Efforts have been made to incorporate such initiatives considering discussions on VAR decisions in the Premier League.

During the Liverpool-Tottenham match in September, a goal by Liverpool’s Luis Diaz was disallowed by VAR as offside, although it wasn’t. Despite the VAR assistant Darren England suggesting it was a valid goal after reviewing the replay, the on-field referee Simon Hooper couldn’t interpret it. This incident led to intense criticism regarding VAR decision-making processes and the language used in communication.

An article in The Times yesterday mentioned that among various ongoing discussions, efforts are being made to ensure clearer communication and break language barriers, even involving the assistance of pilots from British Airways for Premier League referees.

Chris Heverin and Pete Notraj, British Airways pilots, delivered a presentation to Premier League referees at a training camp by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) last month. In their 45-minute presentation, the pilots emphasized maintaining complete focus on their tasks, drawing parallels between their work and that of referees.

They explained how during aviation, operators and even non-English speaking operators ensure effective communication. This initiative to involve pilots in the training of Premier League referees was spearheaded by the head of referees, Howard Webb.

According to BBC reports, before taking charge, Webb had previously invited air traffic control staff to a PGMOL training session in December last year. After the controversy surrounding the disallowed goal for Liverpool’s Diaz, Webb revised the VAR protocol, ensuring clarity in VAR officials’ statements. The new initiative includes informing referees about the experience and skills of air traffic controllers to enhance their awareness.”

The integration of expertise from air traffic controllers and pilots into the training and decision-making processes of Premier League referees marks an intriguing collaborative effort to improve accuracy and communication in match officiating.

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