Wolves verdict unanimous as Sky Sports pundits propose two huge VAR changes

Wolverhampton Wanderers are at the centre of VAR controversy once again in the Premier League.
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Sky Sports pundits have focused on Wolverhampton Wanderers for a second weekend running after Gary O’Neil’s side were on the wrong end of a controversial refereeing decision at Sheffield United. Discussed on Monday morning’s episode of Ref Watch, a show dedicated to holding Premier League officials to account, Wolves were handed a unanimous verdict.

The punditry panel, which is made up of former English top-flight referee Dermot Gallagher and ex-professional players Stephen Warnock and Sue Smith, agreed Wanderers were unlucky to give away a penalty. Sheffield United were handed a spot kick when right-back George Baldock appeared to be bundled over by Wolves striker Fabio Silva but replays showed there was minimal contact.

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Rob Jones, the on-field official at Bramall Lane on Saturday, gave a penalty on impulse and then VAR didn’t intervene. Baldock even got up after the foul but the fact there was some contact, albeit minute, meant there was technically no clear and obvious error. Wolves boss O’Neil was furious post-match and Sky’s pundits can see why.

“I think the referee gave it too quickly,” Gallagher admitted. “There was no need to rush it and if he waited two seconds to see how it unfolded, he would’ve made a different decision. Baldock is the clue as he gets straight up and chases after the ball. There’s physical contact, albeit minimal, so VAR can’t overturn the referee’s decision,” Gallagher concluded.

Fabio Silva was in disbelief when Rob Jones pointed to the spot at Bramall Lane. Fabio Silva was in disbelief when Rob Jones pointed to the spot at Bramall Lane.
Fabio Silva was in disbelief when Rob Jones pointed to the spot at Bramall Lane.

Meanwhile, Warnock said: “Just go back to being a team of officials again. Help your mate out! You’ve made the wrong decision, correct it. Dermot’s right, don’t rush into the decision, and that’s the issue here as he’s rushed into it quickly. The thing is, players’ movements when they go down, they’re very clever in the way they do it.”

Finally, it was Smith’s turn as she said: “You’ve got to feel for Gary O’Neil. It’s another poor decision. You see Fabio Silva goes to clear the ball but he comes away and the contact is so minimal. It’s not enough for a penalty, so you can understand the frustration of Wolves there.”

VAR needs to change but Wolves can’t claim they’re the only ones impacted

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On reflection, Sky Sports’ pundits reckon VAR should adapt somewhat to avoid similar discussions in the future. Gallagher thinks Premier League referees should hold off a while longer before making calls, while Warnock believes the ‘clear and obvious’ rule should sometimes be ignored when common sense prevails.

Saturday’s refereeing mistake wasn’t the only one the Old Gold have suffered this season as Newcastle United were arguably wrongfully awarded a penalty and Luton Town got a spot-kick for a contentious Joao Gomes handball, both in October. Back in August, meanwhile, Wolves were denied a penalty of their own as Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana clattered into two Wanderers players.

But O’Neil’s side shouldn’t make it out as if they’re the only ones suffering, Gallagher asserts. “Everybody feels they’re a victim of a wrong decision and feels upset. But it’s not Wolves. We’ve had 11 or 12 weeks and we’ve seen numerous decisions where you feel the referee has the wrong decision but it’s not always for the same team,” Gallagher said.

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