Jordan Pickford’s tackle on Van Dijk compared to Keane’s lunge on Haaland

Keith Hackett believes refereeing standards are in a “bad place” – and VAR is actually making things worse.

Former Premier League referee Hackett insists Michael Oliver missed the “worst and easiest” decision of the season after failing to send off Jordan Pickford for his X-rated challenge on Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

Hackett likened Everton keeper Pickford’s lunge to Roy Keane’s infamous tackle on Leeds midfielder Alf Inge Haaland in 2001 when David Elleray sent off the former Manchester United hard man.

But Hackett believes referees are now becoming over reliant on VAR as a “lifebelt”, refereeing teams are not working and also that technology used in offside decisions is simply not up to scratch and is getting it wrong.

Hackett, former PGMOL chief, said: “We’ve got the worst decision of the season and the easiest decision for any referee at any level to make. Because it was an act of brutality. There’s a duty of care to an opponent and that seems to have been abandoned.

“Pickford is off the ground, out of control and to cap it all he’d done a scissor movement. He’s dug the hole and then buried him. You have to go back to the Roy Keane incident at Leeds where he’s gone out to hurt Alf Inge Haaland to see one as bad.

“Elleray was the referee, didn’t have VAR, but he saw it and sent off Keane. Thankfully, it’s rare for it to happen but all anyone wants is for when it does happen, for it to be spotted.

“If you’re on the pitch as a referee and haven’t seen that; if you’re the linesman or the VAR and not seen it; well, that’s just ridiculous. A referee should have a sixth sense as to when something is not right.

“Refereeing is in a bad place. I look at these errors. I know I used to make mistakes but I don’t think I made them as often as this or on incidents like this. It’s our top referee and the fact he’s not seen that incident is amazing.

“Referees are using VAR as the lifebelt. It shouldn’t be like that. Why didn’t Michael Oliver see it? I think he, like a lot of referees, think they’ve got VAR as a back up. And it’s not good for the game.”

David Coote was the VAR at Goodison Park but, bizarrely, they swap roles at Leeds on Monday night so Oliver is VAR and Coote is the referee which Hackett believes is wrong and a potential recipe for disaster.

“However you look at it, they are bringing baggage into that game,” said Hackett. “They will be dwelling on a game where they’ve made a major error. The relationship has to be one of trust and good communication and yet now those relationships are very worrying.”

Hackett also played a role in bringing in goal line technology which has been a huge success in the Premier League but he insists that the technology on offside decisions from VAR does not meet the same standard.

Oliver is regarded by many as the Premier League’s best referee. It was during Hackett’s time at the PGMOL that the Premier League brought in teams of officials so a referee would build up an understanding with their linesman.

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Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson had his effort ruled out deep into injury time at Goodison Park but Hackett is not convinced that, even with video technology, it was the right decision.

Hackett added: “To get the accuracy of a ball crossing a goal line camera takes seven cameras around each goal and cameras operating at 500 frames per second. With the VAR cameras on most offsides you have cameras operating on 50 frames a second.

“Therefore, it is not accurate enough to judge that player – from when the ball was played to another line where the player was – was offside. And it’s spoiling the game. I don’t think anyone in football buys into it. In fact, I know they don’t.”

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