Nigel Pearson blasts refereeing standards re-raising questions about VAR in the Championship


Bristol City manager Nigel Pearson revealed he has considered retiring from football management due to the lack of quality refereeing in England, despite the Robins recording their first victory of the season over Luton.

Bristol City overcame Luton 2-0 at the Ashton Gate Stadium yet goals from Nakhi Wells and Tommy Conway were not enough to prevent Pearson from going on an angry rant about the officials following the final whistle.

The Robins finished the match with 10 men following the dismissal of Mark Sykes in the 67th minute, however the 58-year-old manager was left frustrated that the recipient of the red card tackle, Leigh Doughty, was not given his marching orders too for the angry reaction and push that followed.

Pearson claimed he has thought about calling quits on his time in the industry due to the poor refereeing standards lowering the integrity of the sport. He said:

“In the modern game, I’ve got no complaints about Sykesy but what I do have a complaint about is the fact that their player wasn’t dealt with in the same way. I’ve got to be honest with you, I thought about it last year, and I’ve thought about it already this year and that is basically to pack up being involved in the sport.

“That is not because how shallow the modern game is and how some of the aspects of the modern game irritate me but the standard of officiating, unfortunately as far as I’m concerned, is at an all-time low.

“After the first game at Hull, only this week, we had a reply from the authorities to say their first goal wasn’t a penalty and we should have had two. Which is fair enough, at least they can be reasonable enough to give some sort of explanation.

“But I’m afraid when it happens all the time, we’ve had it again today, Rob Atkinson has been fouled and we should’ve had another penalty and we didn’t get it. So as far as I’m concerned the integrity of the sport is being compromised.

“They’re consistently poor.  I’ll probably get in trouble again for saying what I think but somebody has to say it. I’m sick to death of people like me who have jobs that are in jeopardy. I can take losing my job if we play badly every week but what I can’t do is put up -” before quickly holding himself back to try and avoid punishment from the FA.

Instead Pearson finished with, “- For me, it’s just a worry for the game.”

Tactical timing in calling out refereeing problems

The outburst from the Robins’ manager comes after the west-country club finally recorded three points at the fourth attempt this season.

Defeats to Hull City and Sunderland followed by a draw at Wigan had seen Bristol City rooted to the bottom of the Championship table until the victory over Luton propelled them up into 15th position.

Pressure will have been building on Pearson after a slow start to the campaign that had the promise for the Robins to spread their wings and be looking towards the sky instead of looking down at the muddy ground beneath them.

However, having been in winning positions in every match so far this season the decisions from the referees have clipped the wings of Bristol City so far and left their manager bubbling under the surface.

Notorious for his public outbursts, the 58-year-old decided to keep his cool until being in a position of power to argue his case without being slated for making excuses and trying to deflect the issues of his team when the results weren’t going their way.

While, Pearson will almost certainly be penalised for his comments about the officials and awaits the FA verdict on his outburst, his experience told.

Complaining after a negative result instantly gets labelled as reactionary as it happens so often. Arguing after a victory is far less common and catches the attention and provokes a response.

Refereeing standards were also brought into question in the Premier League this weekend by fellow manager Thomas Tuchel after his side dropped points to Tottenham Hotspur. Yet unlike the Premier League, the Championship do not currently have the use of VAR so leniency towards refereeing errors is greater.

Nevertheless, through the constant evolution of football, the use of VAR in the Championship is one that has been openly discussed ever since the arrival of the technology in the English top-flight.

As of yet it is deemed ‘too expensive’ to implement in the Championship however the possibility of “VAR-Light” is being considered and the practicalities of the system are being put in place to be brought into the second-tier of English football by the start of next season.

What is VAR-Light and how would it work?

VAR-Light is essentially a low-cost implementation of VAR that is seen in the Premier League and major European competitions.

The full extent of VAR requires a huge number of cameras to ensure the full pitch is covered at every angle in order to come to a conclusion on contentious decisions, which makes the cost to implement it too great for many clubs in the Championship and below.

Instead FIFA have proposed “VAR Light” which has been approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

There are currently two systems being trialled, one which uses four to eight cameras and the other which uses one to three cameras significantly reducing the costs but as of yet it is not clear which system would be used by the EFL.

‘VAR-Light” would allow for referees to use replays in order to come to a more well-informed decision on the major moments in every match and ideally prevent mistakes which could prove costly for any side in any division.

However, despite Pearson’s complaints it is understood the EFL have no plans to fast-track the implementation of the trial systems.

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