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Forest’s VAR Experience so far, in Numbers

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VAR or the Video Assistant Referee is rarely out of the headlines. Part equaliser, part scapegoat, it could be argued that the technology hasn’t quite fulfilled its purpose, given the number of errors it’s let through in its lifetime.

The 90min website summarised the occasional furore by stating there’s only “so many apologies [PGMOL chief] Howard Webb can dish out”.

Mark Clattenburg

At the weekend, three VAR penalty appeals went against Forest in the 2-0 defeat to Everton. It seems few are on Notts’ side, though.

Former ref Mark Clattenburg, who Forest have hired as a lobbyist, has been trashed by Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher after stressing that VAR assistant Stuart Atwell was a Luton fan, having a vested interest in Forest losing.

Clattenburg operates as Notts’ champion in battles against PGMOL, the professional refs association that takes all the blame for VAR decisions.

It’s easy to see why Forest might feel hard-done-to but is the appointment of Clattenburg worthwhile? The statistics for VAR usage this season seem to say ‘no’.

Human Error

VAR decisions affect everybody in the game. Worse, given the weekend’s result, its designers’ interest in removing human error seems ironic – and that’s without mentioning the string of high-profile disasters that came before it.

While fans and clubs are at the mercy of the Video Assistant Referee, they’re not the only things that live and die on each outcome.

Football-adjacent industries like sports betting rely on VAR to reduce the influence of (human) referees on the final result. Sportingtech monitors 600,000 pre-match events and 500,000 live events each year, each dependent on a steady flow of information.

Little can be done to accommodate VAR errors. Yet, the system maintains a reputation for accuracy. How has that worked out for Forest this season?

VAR Overturns

Figures up to date to March 30th suggest that Clattenburg’s widely-mocked appointment has been a waste of time. According to ESPN, Notts have been the second-largest beneficiary of VAR in the 2023/24 season, with a +4 rating compared to Fulham’s +5.

That doesn’t invalidate any concerns about each event but it might not do the club well to complain too loudly.

In numbers, Forest have had six VAR overturns, including one goal allowed and one goal disallowed. Critically, VAR overturned two goals against Notts. It’s also given one penalty, in the game against Brighton on November 25.

Wolves, Sheff United, Liverpool, and West Ham have all suffered the most under VAR’s hand, with Wolves netting a -4 to the Blades -3.

An Opponent’s Flag

Clattenburg was seemingly right about one thing, that fans of rival clubs shouldn’t be appointed to VAR roles, especially with a relegation battle underway.

His full involvement in this weekend’s chaos after the Everton result isn’t exactly clear. Howard Webb claims that no concerns were raised about assistant referee Atwell until after the match.

Of course, this contradicts Forest’s claims after the fact that the Video Assistant Referee was flying an opponent’s flag. “Our patience has been tested multiple times”, Notts wrote on Twitter/X.

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