disclaimer As a resale aggregator, prices may be higher than face value.
Ticket Compare > 11 Worst VAR Decisions in Football History

11 Worst VAR Decisions in Football History

When VAR was introduced into football, the aim was to make tough refereeing decisions easier and more accurate. The harsh reality of the technology is that some decisions have been dubious, questionable or outright wrong.

VAR has certainly added an element of entertainment to football, with some sides falling on the right end of the decisions, and some falling on the wrong end. Fans will moan twice as much when decisions don’t go their way, however, they end up smug if a decision does go in their favour. In that spirit, we’ve gone ahead and identified 11 of the worst VAR decisions in football history for your enjoyment. Read on to find out more.

Worst VAR Decisions in Football History

Here are 11 of the worst VAR decisions in football history:

  • West Ham vs Chelsea (2022/23 Premier League)
  • Manchester City vs Southampton (2020/21 Premier League)
  • Tottenham vs Newcastle (2020/21 Premier League)
  • Iran vs Portugal (2018 FIFA World Cup)
  • Juventus vs Salernitana (2022/23 Serie A)
  • Mainz vs Freiburg (2017/18 Bundesliga)
  • Chelsea vs West Ham United (2022/23 Premier League)
  • Wolves vs Manchester City (2021/22 Premier League)
  • Everton vs Arsenal (2021/22 Premier League)
  • Tottenham vs Liverpool (2021/22 Premier League)
  • Newcastle vs Manchester City (2021/22 Premier League)

11. Newcastle vs Manchester City (2021/22 Premier League)

We start our collection of bad VAR decisions at St James’ Park when Newcastle took on Manchester City in a Premier League match during the 2021/22 season. After Newcastle went 2-0 down, a long punt forward meant that winger Ryan Fraser was chasing a dead ball, but subsequently got taken out by Brazil goalkeeper Ederson.

Ederson got nowhere near the ball, and Portuguese defender Cancelo’s body language suggested that it should have been a penalty, but upon review, VAR astonishingly didn’t deem it to be a penalty.

You can make your own mind up over whether VAR got the decision right by watching the highlights from the match below:

10. Tottenham vs Liverpool (2021/22 Premier League)

An action packed match between Tottenham and Liverpool in the 2021/22 Premier League season was dominated by VAR headlines when not one but three dubious decisions were made.

In the first half, goalscorer Harry Kane should’ve been sent off for a challenge on Andy Robertson because his foot was off the ground, but was instead given a yellow card by referee Paul Tierney. The second incident was when a clear penalty wasn’t given to Diogo Jota.

Finally, in a total turn of events, the victim of the first half incident, Andy Robertson, was sent off for a rash challenge on Emerson Royal late in the second half. Initially, Tierney showed him a yellow card, but after a VAR review, the Scottish defender was sent off.

The match finished 2-2, which proved costly for Liverpool, who lost the title to Manchester City by just one point at the end of the season.

Watch how all of this chaos unfolded in the following video:

9. Everton vs Arsenal (2021/22 Premier League)

A nasty encounter on Merseyside meant that Ben Godfrey avoided receiving a red card thanks to VAR. In the first half, the defender put his studs into Takehiro Tomiyasu’s face, leaving a nasty scar, but following a VAR review the referee deemed that the incident was accidental.

This decision was pivotal for the outcome of the match as Everton went on to win 2-1, and if Godfrey had been sent off at that time of the match, you’d think that Arsenal would have gone ahead and won. Decide for yourself whether you think it’s a red card by watching the highlights below:

8. Wolves vs Manchester City (2021/22 Premier League)

The rule of handball really got tested in a match between Wolves and Manchester City during the 2021/22 Premier League season. In the 63rd minute of the match, Bernardo Silva played a cross into the box which appeared to hit Joao Moutinho’s armpit.

The referee John Moss immediately pointed to the spot for a penalty, having deemed that the ball had instead hit Moutinho’s arm. The decision went to VAR and following a review the penalty was still given. Some fans believe this was big 6 bias and that if a club lower in the table had experienced the same fate, they wouldn’t have been awarded a penalty.

This decision turned out to be significant, too, with Manchester City winning the match 1-0 and winning the league by just one point come the end of the season. Wolves manager at the time, Bruno Lage, claimed that it was “one of the worst VAR decisions ever”.

7. Chelsea vs West Ham United (2022/23 Premier League)

6. Mainz vs Freiburg (2017/18 Bundesliga)

It certainly seems like there are more controversial VAR decisions that take place in England rather than the rest of the world, however we have our first incident from the Bundesliga. A match between Mainz and Freiburg, during the 2017/18 Bundesliga season, made football history when the referee called the players back out of their dressing rooms at half-time to give a penalty.

A cross in the 45th minute of the match looked to strike a Freiburg defender on the arm, yet the decision wasn’t given by the referee, and he blew up for half-time. VAR then suggested that he view the incident, but this didn’t happen until both sets of players were already in their dressing rooms.

The referee then went on to give a penalty, which Pablo de Blasis calmly converted, putting Mainz 1-0 at half-time. They went on to win the game 2-0, thanks to another goal from the player.

Watch the historic incident unravel below. It wouldn’t be surprising if lots of fans missed the penalty because they were already in the concourses buying refreshments:

5. Juventus vs Salernitana (2022/23 Serie A)

Another bad VAR decision from Europe now, and this time we head to Serie A. This is certainly one of the craziest string of events we’ve seen in the VAR world. The match between Juventus and Salernitana was 2-2 heading into the final minutes, however Juventus attacker Arkadiusz Milik headed in a corner in the 94th minute to make it 3-2.

The goal was celebrated by the whole Juventus team, including the bench, and Milik even received a second yellow card for his celebrations. However, when the referee indicated that he had been called to the VAR screen, trouble erupted between the two sets of players with arms flailing.

It was then deemed that the goal would not stand after reviewing the incident, due to Bonucci standing in an offside position when the goal went in, meaning that he had “interfered” with play.

More fighting broke out, and the referee ended up sending off defenders Juan Cuadrado (Juventus) and Fazio (Salernitana) for their roles in the outburst, as well as Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri. Also, Milik’s red card still stood, even though he received it while celebrating a goal that no longer stood.

Witness 4 red cards and a dubious overturned goal in Turin by watching the video below:

4. Iran vs Portugal (2018 FIFA World Cup)

When it comes to the worst VAR decisions, we haven’t discussed any that have taken place on the international stage, however the 2018 World Cup was littered with them. During a final group match between Iran and Portugal, VAR more than played its part.

Portugal were 1-0 up thanks to an impressive outside of the boot strike from winger Ricardo Quaresma, however in the second half Iran were awarded a penalty thanks to VAR. A dubious handball from a Portuguese defender meant that the referee was told to view the VAR screen.

A penalty was given, with the decision seeming harsh. Iran converted the subsequent penalty making it 1-1 however they didn’t progress any further in the tournament after finishing 3rd in their group by 1 point behind Spain and Portugal.

3. Tottenham vs Newcastle (2020/21 Premier League)

Handball is a usual suspect when it comes to bad VAR decisions, but this next incident is one of the harshest we’ve seen. When Tottenham took on Newcastle during the 2020/21 Premier League season, Eric Dier was adjudged to have handled the ball whilst in an aerial battle with striker Andy Carroll.

Carroll won the header and headed the ball onto Dier’s arm, who wasn’t looking at the ball and had no chance of moving his arm out of the way. VAR recommended referee Peter Bankes view the incident at the screen and following this review, he signalled for a penalty to Newcastle. To make matters worse, Spurs were 1-0 up and the penalty was given in the 90+7th minute.

Callum Wilson stepped up and equalised for Newcastle, meaning Tottenham missed out on three points. This season was during the COVID-19 pandemic, so there were no fans in the stadium, and it’s probably a good thing they weren’t, following this horrific decision.

2. Manchester City vs Southampton (2020/21 Premier League)

Bad VAR decisions come in many forms, and it turns out you can be jeopardised for being honest by VAR. During the 2020/21 Premier League season, Manchester City played Southampton and forward Phil Foden went through on goal before being hacked down by Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

Foden didn’t milk his reaction and tried to get back on his feet following the challenge, thinking he could finish the chance. Instead, the ball ran too wide, so he couldn’t score, but the referee didn’t go back and give a penalty. The decision didn’t even go to VAR, even though it was quite clearly a penalty, and possibly a sending off for McCarthy.

Manchester City have been on the right end of many bad VAR decisions, so maybe this is the universe’s way of balancing the books. Fortunately for the Citizens, it didn’t affect the final result as they won 5–2 thanks to an impressive performance from Riyad Mahrez.

Watch the highlights from this match below:

1. West Ham vs Chelsea (2022/23 Premier League)

In 1st place of our list of the worst VAR decisions in football history is an incident during Chelsea’s visit to West Ham United during the 2022/23 Premier League season. VAR for Chelsea and West Ham is no stranger, as we’ve previously discussed in this article.

During this big London affair at the Olympic Stadium, midfielder Tomáš Souček clearly saved a shot from Conor Gallagher with his hand in the penalty box. This wasn’t given as a penalty, though, to the shock of the Chelsea players. Looking back at the replays, it was clear Souček saved the ball with his hand, yet VAR thought that his hand was in a “natural position”.

This meant that Chelsea had to settle for the draw, rather than taking a full three points back to Stamford Bridge. You can watch this unfold in the following video:


VAR was introduced in football to make refereeing decisions more fair, when in reality, it has made things rather unfair. We’ve highlighted just 11 examples of bad VAR decisions in this article, however there are loads more, and they’ll continue to increase in the future.

Whether VAR is more entertaining than just relying on a referee’s decision is up for debate, with many pundits and fans agreeing that the latter was more exciting in the past. For now, we’ll have to settle with VAR and see how it develops in the future.

Browse football tickets at Ticket Compare for the biggest events across the world. We offer tickets for the biggest sporting events across the world including the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A.

Header image: Антон Зайцев, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

Related Articles

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Referees Ignore VAR?

Yes, referees have the licence to ignore VAR decisions when they are presented to them. As they have the opportunity to view exactly what the VAR has viewed. Essentially, it’s a matter of two professional opinions going head-to-head. If the on-field referee believes their decision is correct following the VAR review, they have the right to stick to their original decision.

What Is VAR?

VAR, which stands for ‘Video Assistant Referee’, is a form of technology that was introduced in football to help referees making important decisions on the field. It involves a team of referees analysing matches from a neutral location away from the ground that the match is taking place in.

When a major decision is made during a match, VAR will intervene if the on-field referee’s decision is deemed incorrect. Major decisions can include a potential sending off, the denying of a goal or a potential penalty.

If VAR believes that the referee’s decision is incorrect, the on-field referee will have the opportunity to visit the VAR screen to watch a replay of the incident. This gives the referee the chance to change their decision if they are in agreement with the VAR after their review. Referees are usually sent to the screen when they’ve got their decision wrong.

Upon its introduction to football, VAR has experienced many teething problems, with it receiving mixed reviews from pundits, managers, fans and players.

When Was VAR Introduced Into Football?

VAR was first introduced into football in 2017 after the International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved the use of it in 2016. It was a long road for VAR before this approval, as it was initially tested all the way back in 2012 during an international match between Italy and the Netherlands.

With regard to the Premier League, VAR was introduced during the 2019/20 season.

Chris Goodacre

Written by Chris Goodacre

Chris Goodacre is a specialist football writer at Ticket-Compare, a podcast host and a coach with a passion for the beautiful game. His in-depth articles provide insightful analysis and are a trusted source of football information for fans across the world. Having been a co-host on a dedicated football podcast and an FA Level 1 Coaching badge holder, Chris combines his extensive knowledge with a genuine passion for the game. Enjoy Chris’ perspective on the world of football.