FA chief claims broadcasting referees' audio is 'worth exploring'

Referees’ microphone recordings may be released publicly to ‘DEMYSTIFY’ football’s rules confusion, as the FA say they will ‘absolutely explore’ new plans to let fans hear decisions

  • The FA has said they will ‘absolutely explore’ plans to release referees’ audio
  • There have been a number of contentious decisions and VAR calls recently
  • FA chief Mark Bullingham says releasing audio could help ‘demystify’ decisions
  • The PGMOL did release audio of Michael Oliver from the 2018 FA Cup final
  • Australia’s A-League won plenty of plaudits last week for releasing some footage 

The FA has said it welcomes potential talks over broadcasting referees’ audio in an attempt to ‘demystify’ a part of the game that has become hugely controversial.

Current rules prevent the decision-making process of officials being broadcast to fans and viewers but it could be possible for a recording of the dialogue between referees to be made available post match. 

Officials have been the subject of fierce scrutiny in recent months after a series of contentious decisions and VAR reviews. But FA chief executive Mark Bullingham says post-match audio files could bring ‘value’ to supporters.

The FA has said it welcomes potential talks over broadcasting referees’ audio after matches

It is hoped releasing audio could ‘demystify’ confusion surrounding why decisions are made

He told Sky Sports News: ‘I think it’s absolutely worth exploring.

‘Our starting point has to be that anything which adds value to the fan, and demystifies any part of the decision making by referees, has got to be something that we’d consider, of course.

‘We then need to look at that counter arguments that might exist from any referees feeling that’s intrusive.’

Any possibility of audio being released would require an agreement with the Professional Game Match Officials Limited [PGMOL]. 

Football’s law makers, the International Football Association Board [IFAB], recently delayed a decision over whether or not to broadcast real-time audio from match officials, as is done in rugby union and cricket.  

The Premier League has had a number of contentious decisions and VAR reviews recently

FIFA has said it can see ‘benefits’ to live audio but will hold further talks with IFAB over the subject. 

Bullingham recently attended the IFAB AGM on March 5 and revealed the topic was brought up for discussion.

He added: ‘The one we focused on [with other lawmakers at IFAB AGM on March 5] was let’s look at whether the specific conversation between a VAR and a referee, about an incident, is something that should be broadcast, in the same way that it is with other sports, because it could add value to the fan that is watching.’  

PGMOL chief Mike Riley said back in 2019 that ‘we want to maintain the privacy, the intimacy, of conversations that take place between players and referees on the field of play’ but didn’t rule out audio being made public in the future. 

Almost three years ago, the PGMOL released the audio of Michael Oliver, thought to be the Premier League’s best official, as he awarded Chelsea a first-half penalty against Manchester United in the 2018 FA Cup final. 

The PGMOL released referee Michael Oliver’s audio from the FA Cup final back in 2018 

Australia’s A-League won praise after sharing footage of officials communicating last week 

Oliver penalised Phil Jones for a foul on Eden Hazard and his discussion with his assistant referee and the VAR were released months later as part of a training programme. 

Australia’s A-League won plenty of plaudits last week when footage emerged from the Western Sydney Wanderers’ home clash against Melbourne City of officials awarding a penalty. 

The ball appeared to strike the hand of James Troisi in the penalty area but the referee Shaun Evans awarded a corner to the visitors instead. 

After a quick conversation and visit to the pitch-side monitor, the original decision was simply and effectively overturned by the officials and Melbourne City subsequently doubled their lead to 2-0 from the spot.

The latest in a line of recent controversial decisions in the Premier League came in Arsenal’s draw at Burnley on Saturday.

Arsenal had a major penalty appeal for handball by Burnley against Erik Pieters turned down

Fulham were outraged at the decision to disallow the goal due to handball by Mario Lemina

The Gunners had a major penalty appeal for handball turned down before seeing referee Andre Marriner award them a spot-kick and then be overturned by VAR in a dramatic second half at Turf Moor.  

The Gunners were adamant they should have been given a penalty when Nicolas Pepe played the ball against Erik Pieters’ hand in the area and they had a strong case under the current rules.

Pieters escaped without punishment on that occasion but soon after he was in the thick of the action again, blocking Pepe’s shot on the goal line with his shoulder. This time, Marriner did point to the spot and showed the defender a red card but VAR correctly overturned the decision as the ball had not hit his hand.

It came just days after Fulham were left furious when striker Josh Maja saw his goal against Tottenham disallowed after the ball accidentally hit team-mate Mario Lemina’s hand.  

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