Mike Dean avoided VAR call to spare official grief in Chelsea-Tottenham clash

Mike Dean has admitted he failed to correct a mistake in a Chelsea-Tottenham match last season to prevent his friend Anthony Taylor receiving extra “grief”.

Former Premier League referee Dean was on VAR duty at Stamford Bridge in August 2022 when Chelsea wanted Spurs defender Cristian Romero sent off for pulling Marc Cucurella to the floor by his hair.

Dean says he made a “really bad call” in not sending Taylor to review his decision.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – Stamford Bridge
Anthony Taylor (far left) is surrounded by Tottenham and Chelsea players after sending off Spurs boss Antonio Conte at Stamford Bridge in August 2022 (John Walton/PA)

Harry Kane equalised for Spurs from the following stoppage-time corner and the game finished 2-2.

Both managers – Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel and Tottenham’s Antonio Conte – received red cards from Taylor following an angry exchange at the end of the match.

“I missed the stupid hair pull at Chelsea versus Tottenham which was pathetic from my point of view,” Dean told Simon Jordan’s Up Front podcast.

“It’s one of them where if I had my time again, what would I do? I’d send Anthony (Taylor) to the screen.

“I think I knew if I did send him to the screen…he’s cautioned both managers.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – Stamford Bridge
Chelsea’s Marc Cucurella speaks with the linesman at full-time after his hair was pulled by Tottenham defender Cristian Romero (John Walton/PA)

“I said to Anthony afterwards: ‘I just didn’t want to send you to the screen after what has gone on in the game’.

“I didn’t want to send him up because he is a mate as well as a referee and I think I didn’t want to send him up because I didn’t want any more grief than he already had.”

Wirral-born Dean started his career as a top-flight referee in 2000 and went on to take charge of 553 Premier League matches.

Dean retired from refereeing at the end of the 2021-22 campaign and became a dedicated Premier League VAR last season.

Premier League End of Season Package
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is sent off by referee Anthony Taylor in a controversial game at Stamford Bridge last season (John Walton/PA)

But he was stood down from VAR duty for two months after the Stamford Bridge incident and admitted the role was something he ended up “dreading”.

Dean said: “That was a major error. If they don’t score from the corner it is not as big an issue.

“But I knew full well then I would be stood down the week after. I asked to take a bit of time off because it wasn’t for me.

“I used to get in the car on a Friday and was dreading Saturday. I was thinking, ‘I hope nothing happens’. I used to be petrified sitting in the (VAR) chair.”

Dean had originally said in a column for the Daily Mail after the Chelsea-Tottenham match that he did not send Taylor to the screen because he did not believe what Romero did constituted violent conduct.

Dean was on VAR duty for just five matches from Boxing Day last year, the first round of games following Howard Webb taking on responsibility for refereeing.

Dean did not officiate again after February 11 over his performance levels.

Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) later released a statement, stressing that Dean’s decision in the match was an isolated incident.

“VARs undergo extensive training with the focus centred entirely around effectively working with the on-field team of officials to rectify clear and obvious errors (relating to goals, penalties, red cards and mistaken identity).

“When VARs identify a clear and obvious error by the on-field team of match officials, they should intervene and recommend a review by the referee. We strongly refute any suggestion that VARs do not intervene, for whatever reason, when they have identified a clear and obvious error.”