Mike Dean’s future as a VAR is in doubt after he was taken off selection in the Premier League with performance levels part of the decision, sources have told ESPN.
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That day proved to be a watershed moment for Howard Webb, who in December took over as chief refereeing officer for Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the organisation that oversees refereeing in English football.
Lee Mason, the second of two full-time VARs in the Premier League along with Dean, failed to identify Christian Norgaard was in an offside position before Ivan Toney scored Brentford‘s equalising goal in a 1-1 draw at Arsenal. The same day, VAR John Brooks applied the offside lines onto the wrong player to disallow a Brighton & Hove Albion goal in a game the Seagulls drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace.
A PGMOL statement said Webb accepted there were “significant errors in the VAR process” and the issues were being “thoroughly reviewed.”
Mason, who was into his second season as a full-time VAR, left his position by mutual consent six days later, while Brooks was replaced as the VAR on his next two appointments as Webb made it clear there must be accountability for mistakes.
Later in February it was announced that Neil Swarbrick, the Premier League’s head of VAR, would retire in the summer. As part of the transition he has taken on a role in the VAR hub since January, but has also faced controversy, including a missed red card for Liverpool midfielder Fabinho‘s horror challenge on Brighton forward Evan Ferguson in an FA Cup tie — another incident which caused PGMOL to publicly admit to a mistake.
Now it seems Dean’s future has been part of that review, while there is no confirmation if he will be appointed again this season or if he will return for the 2023-24 season after going through additional training.
While Dean was not at fault on the weekend of Feb. 11, he had made a number of high-profile errors across the season.
In August, he failed to identify a red card against Tottenham defender Cristian Romero for a violent hair pull on Chelsea defender Marc Cucurella deep into added time. From the resulting corner — which would not have been taken had Dean advised a VAR intervention — Spurs scored a 95th-minute equaliser.
Dean wrongly failed to intervene when AFC Bournemouth‘s Jefferson Lerma should have been sent off at West Ham United, though David Moyes’ won 2-0. But Wolverhampton Wanderers should have been given a seventh-minute penalty at home to Arsenal when Goncalo Guedes was fouled by William Saliba, and Arsenal went on to win than match at Molineux 2-0.
In January, Dean intervened to award a 64th-minute penalty to Fulham at Newcastle United for a foul by Kieran Trippier on Bobby De Cordova-Reid. There should have been no VAR intervention, but Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic would miss the spot kick as Newcastle went on to net a late winner.
Dean retired as a referee last summer, and initially it seemed he would not move into a role with PGMOL, before his appointment as a VAR was confirmed in July. With it, Dean was provided with a media profile never before afforded to a serving referee. He was given a monthly column in the Daily Mail, in which he admitted to his mistake not to send off Romero, and an Instagram account. However, he has not written an article in the Mail, or posted on his social media since being taken off selection as a VAR in February.