Millie Bright brands lack of VAR ‘mind-blowing' as England lose to offside goal

England captain Millie Bright (centre) heads the ball clear during the 2-1 UEFA women's Nations League defeat against the Netherlands in Utrecht (Rene Nijhuis/AP).
PA Sport Staff

Millie Bright said it was “mind-blowing” that VAR was not used in England’s 2-1 Nations League defeat against the Netherlands.

Lieke Martens’ opener for the hosts would have been disallowed for offside if VAR had been in operation, as Danielle van de Donk took part in the build-up after returning from an offside position.

But VAR is not mandatory in the Nations League group stages – it is at the discretion of the host nation – and the Lionesses also had two goals struck off for offside, neither of which could be confirmed by VAR.

Speaking after the defeat England captain Bright, 30, was quoted on the BBC website as saying: “This is international football and we do not have VAR in a competitive international game, which is mind-blowing.

“There is no consistency. It is always frustrating (to not have VAR). We push the level of the game to be so high and professional, yet we sometimes have VAR, and sometimes we don’t and sometimes we have goalline technology.

“It is really unfortunate that these are still huge decisions that are incorrect. That’s where we as players have to keep speaking about it, we have to step up, and we have to demand better, and demand more.”

After Alessia Russo’s 64th-minute equaliser, England were then punished after losing possession in the 90th minute as Alex Greenwood gave the ball away and Martens fed substitute Renate Jansen, who rifled past Mary Earps.

Alessia Russo
Alessia Russo celebrates after hauling England level against the Netherlands (Rene Nijhuis/AP)

England manager Sarina Wiegman also expressed her frustration at Netherlands’ first goal with Danielle van de Donk seemingly in an offside position before assisting Martens.

“When they scored their first goal, we didn’t do well, we didn’t play well, but it’s so obviously offside,” Wiegman told ITV, following only the third defeat of her 41-game England tenure.

“That needs to be seen. I think the standards of the game are getting higher and higher, so (having VAR) would absolutely help. It’s just a little bit disappointing.

“(It is) absolutely a tough one to take and a very, very unnecessary one. The first half they were the better team.

“I think second half we totally dominated the game, and of course we scored one goal – but before that we got lots of huge opportunities, too. It’s just one moment that we don’t manage the game and in the counter-attack they score for 2-1. That’s very, very disappointing.”

UEFA said in a statement that implementing VAR in its competitions involves significant technical, operational, and logistical challenges.

“To address these challenges, UEFA has developed a gradual plan to introduce VAR in the majority of matches, starting with men’s and women’s club and national team competitions,” a spokesperson for European football’s governing body said.

“The UEFA Women’s Nations League is a brand new competition, which is currently not centralised by UEFA. Therefore, the matches do not have a consistent standard of TV production, which in some cases may not be sufficient for VAR purposes.

“However, UEFA already plans to implement VAR at the UEFA Women’s Nations League finals next year and will continuously evaluate the possibility to implement VAR in competitions or stages of competitions where it hasn’t been so far.”

Sarina Wiegman
England manager Sarina Wiegman expressed her disappointment at the lack of VAR (Rene Nijhuis/PA)

VAR was implemented at all 31 matches of last summer’s Women’s Euros, the play-off stage in European qualification for this summer’s Women’s World Cup, and the Women’s Champions League knockout rounds and final in the last two seasons plus the finals in 2021 and 2020.

The result for England leaves them and their opponents on three points in Group A1. Belgium, who England face twice in October in their next group games, lead the pool with four points after drawing 1-1 with Scotland, who have one.

Wiegman’s side, 2-1 victors over Scotland in their opener last Friday, are attempting to secure a Paris 2024 Olympics qualification spot via this competition, and need to finish top of their group to have a chance to do so.