FORMER Premier League referee and Professional Game Match Officials Limited chief Keith Hackett has claimed we must “stop this nonsense and adopt a lighter touch” regarding VAR use in England.

Sheffield-born Hackett, who was a FIFA List referee for ten years, was one of many who was impressed by the use of video assistant refereeing in the European Championships – and hopes it will be a learning curve for Premier League officials.

In Hackett’s role as PGMOL general manager he oversaw elite-level refereeing in England between 2002-2009, and has held several referee ambassador positions in the time since.

The English top-flight has seen controversial incident after controversial incident, with VAR influencing games and overturning decisions that could be deemed not ‘clear and obvious’.

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One such decision that Hackett was vocal about actually went in Saints’ favour, after West Brom striker Mbaye Diagne’s header was incorrectly ruled out for offside in April – although the Baggies won convincingly anyway.

Of course, that is not the first, last or worst example of a decision that has made fans want to jump through the TV screen since VAR’s introduction, and Hackett told the Daily Echo: “I noticed that the clubs have now requested the CEO of the Premier League insist that the PMGOL change and adopt a lighter touch.

“I have my fears that the current PGMOL chief Mike Riley will be reluctant, he’s not for changing – which is sad.

“When we actually look at how the VAR operated in the Euros there’s a few things. First thing they were all housed in Lyon, the base of UEFA, 23 of them. They were clearly pre-trained as to what was expected of them.

“I think they were reminded by Roberto Rosetti (UEFA Referees’ Committee chairman) that they would only come in on clear and obvious errors, and they stuck to that. I loved the way offsides were stuck to, we didn’t get into the debate of toenail offsides.

“I hope that is going to be the major learning point for the PGMOL, that is stop this nonsense of how they operate it, I think what UEFA did was what the Dutch did a year ago and that’s broaden the lines.

“Those key ones that are doubtful become positive towards the attacker rather than the defender. That’s how they should operate.”

One thing that not even UEFA’s crack team of smooth-running and highly-functional - although that's not to say they were without mistake - video assistant referees could fully stamp out is diving and simulation.

Italy plastered ‘Football’s diving home’ all over their newspapers before the final at Wembley, which they went on to win on penalties, in response to a spot-kick awarded after Raheem Sterling was adjudged to be fouled in extra time against Denmark.

Soft though it may well have been – and it’s all up for debate – there were clearly much worse incidents. Italian striker Ciro Immobile was clipped in the area and proceeded to roll around in agony for a considerable length of time against Belgium.

That was, of course, until teammate Nico Barella scored and induced a miraculous recovery in the number 17 – who sprinted off immediately to join the celebrations.

Hackett insists the only way to stamp it out is retrospective punishments to aid referees, but was clear in his response when asked if that’s something we do enough of in England.

“No we don’t,” he said. “In Scotland they invoke it.

“FIFA are of the view they don’t want re-refereeing, but I think we’ve got to a point where players are very clever, getting a touch and going to ground.

“It’s easier to be critical after you’ve seen it three or four times and can say ‘that’s a dive’, but it’s less obvious when you’re out in the middle with the viewing angle and intensity.

“My view is this is where we can help referees by stamping it out or working towards a stronger deterrent, the deterrent at the moment is a yellow card rarely used as the referee has to be 100%, and some areas are not that clear.

“Linked with that is players who roll in agony as if they’ve been shot. These sort of things make life difficult for the modern referee. Let’s hopefully work towards outlawing it in the game.”

English officials did have strong representation at the Euros this summer, though, with VAR’s Stuart Attwell, Chris Kavanagh and Lee Betts.

However, it was the men in the middle for England who gave a superb account of themselves, with referees Anthony Taylor and Michael Oliver both eventually officiating knockout fixtures, along with their team of assistants.

Both officials were fit and raring to go, putting in a number of what Hackett calls ‘explosive sprints’ to ensure they were in the right place to call the big decisions.

Hackett was impressed with the pair, but isn’t convinced that every Premier League referee holds their own fitness to the same lofty standards.

He added: “Yes, fitness does need to improve. They’re fit for the test because they do an annual test.

“But fitness is about several aspects, there’s mental fitness of seeing the decisions and reacting. The process of decision making of a referee is clear and that is, see, think and react.

“I’ve gone to asses thousands of games looking at video clips, and invariably errors are made when the referee initially doesn’t see. Oliver and Taylor set the example of what is required – this is fitness and higher level of work rate.

“The explosive sprint of a referee, over a short distance, is a reaction to maintain contact with play. I’ve seen referees use that and also working hard to get the viewing angle to see the big decisions.

“They knew they had to display that as they’re in a very competitive field, if they made an error they’d be back on the plane.

“There’s a level of accountability that exists there (UEFA Euros), sadly it doesn’t in the Premier League, it did in my day but not now.

“I think that’s why we’ve had a decline in standards.”