Head of Premier League's VAR operation Neil Swarbrick to retire

Head of Premier League’s VAR operation Neil Swarbrick ‘will retire at the end of the season’ as the top-flight’s refereeing shake-up continues amid another season of controversy

  • Neil Swarbrick retirement has reportedly been planned for a considerable time
  • The former Premier League referee as overseen VAR’s operation since 2019-20
  • Criticism has continued over the use of VAR amid controversies and delays 

Neil Swarbrick, the head of the Premier League’s VAR operation, is set to retire at the conclusion of the season.

Swarbrick has overseen the VAR operation since its introduction for the 2019-20 season.

According to the Athletic, Swarbrick’s retirement has been ‘planned for a considerable time’ and is not a reaction to recent controversies.

Swarbrick had been among the officials criticised following a series of VAR mistakes earlier this month.

The VAR official did not inform referee Craig Pawson that he had missed a potential handball by Tomas Soucek in the penalty area during West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at the London Stadium.

Neil Swarbrick will retire as the head of the Premier League’s VAR operation

The former Premier League official has led the VAR operation since its introduction in 2019

Swarbrick faced criticism this month after failing to inform the referee of a potential handball

Swarbrick had been removed from VAR duty for the following round of matches, along with Lee Mason.

Mason had failed to draw the correct lines to rule out Brentford’s equaliser for offside in their 1-1 draw against Arsenal.

Mason left PGMOL by mutual consent a week after the error.

Brighton had also been denied a goal against fierce rivals Crystal Palace when Pervis Estupinan’s strike was incorrectly ruled as offside.

In the wake of the mistakes, PGMOL chief Howard Webb had called all officials to an emergency meeting to prevent those kind of errors occurring again.

The Premier League had criticised PGMOL amid widespread criticism from fans, pundits and managers.

Swarbrick, who officiated over 900 games before ending his career as a referee at the end of the 2017-18 campaign, before taking on the role as head of VAR for England’s top flight.

VAR’s implementation in the Premier League has proved controversial, amid mistakes and delays to matches.

Further criticism came this weekend, with fans labelling the use of VAR as ‘inconsistent’ after Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech was sent off against Tottenham, only for the red card to be rescinded on review by referee Stuart Attwell.

PGMOL chief Howard Webb had apologised for a series of VAR mistakes earlier this month

Fans have criticised delays caused by VAR reviews and inconsistency in decision making 

The incident caused a near five-minute delay to the match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

A successor to Swarbrick has reportedly not been made to date.

His retirement comes amid ongoing change at PGMOL, with Webb having become the organisation’s head refereeing officer this season.

Webb succeeded Mike Riley, who had held the post since 2009.

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