Video assistant referee (VAR)

VAR: The future of football?

In August 2016, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was introduced to football. The system, which had undergone mock trials in the Netherlands’ Eredivisie, was given the go-ahead for a live trial. Used in America’s third-tier United Soccer League, VAR was shown to help match referees get decisions correct on the pitch.

Just one month later, VAR was used in an international friendly between France and Italy. However, it wasn’t until April 2017 that the first top-flight football league adopted the use of VAR. Australia’s A-League will forever be known as first-adopters of VAR, and the system went to work immediately helping officials in games across the competition.

VAR is growing as a technology in the sport, but there are still some who want football to go back to its flawed ways.

What is VAR?

VAR is made up of three people. The trio work to review certain calls made or not made by the on-field referee. The three-member team is comprised of the video assistant referee, the VAR assistant, and a replay operator. The group is stationed in a video room with a bank of television screens. This is typically off-site and in a central location that can look at all the games being played. For example, the World Cup 2018 VAR teams are located in Moscow.

The system looks at four types of decisions. Goals, penalties, cards, and mistaken identity when a card was awarded. Errors made by the referee must be 100 percent clear to be overturned by VAR.

The referee can ask for VAR to clarify a decision made on the field or VAR can recommend the official take a closer look on the pitch side monitor. Original calls can be overturned thanks to VAR or the system can simply back-up the original decision on the field.

VAR tech

The images used by VAR are many of the same ones fans will see at home. However, there are cameras all over the pitch capturing footage that is being sent back to the VAR control center. VAR officials have a number of angles to look at when a decision is under review. Some of the angles will not be shown via television replays for fans. VAR and match officials can only review a call in slow motion at the “point of contact”. If a tackle is under review, the team will only be able to view the moment the players collided in slow motion.

Match officials wear a two-way headset that allows them to communicate with the VAR team. Officials will often touch the headset’s earpiece which indicates he or she is speaking to the VAR control room.

Located at the side of the pitch is a monitor for the match referee. If the VAR control room recommends the referee to look at a call on the pitch, he or she will stop the match and go to the monitor. The monitor will show the replay of the decision in question.

Why is it changing football for the better?

VAR has only been instituted in a few high-profile European leagues. Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A have adopted it along with FIFA sanctioned tournaments like the World Cup. The system has already changed football as it allows match officials to get decisions right. The World Cup 2018 has already seen a number of penalties rightfully given due to VAR technology. Whether penalties were given due to handballs or defenders taking down opponents in the 18-yard box, VAR has proven to be valuable. Harry Kane was ridden down on more than one occasion during games and England were rightfully given spot kicks.

The system is causing players to be more honest, at least in certain situations. As mentioned on GentingBet, punters are also happy with the VAR system as the games tend to be fairer. The grappling and tugging on shirts during corner kicks is one area that VAR has helped improve at the World Cup. With every tournament, match, and league competition that introduces VAR, the kinks in the system get worked out. The more it is used the more smoothly VAR reviews will go. VAR’s use at the World Cup has already seen shorter review sessions by referees and the VAR team than at last year’s Confederation Cup won by Germany. It is just a matter of time until the process is more streamlined and calls are made even more quickly.

Getting missed penalties correct isn’t the only reason why VAR is changing football for the better. It is giving a referee conclusive evidence of an act occurring or not. Now, critics of referees can be silenced, and in some way, the referee has gained some respect.

VAR still has a long way to go to prove naysayers wrong. It seems fans are more onboard with the system as it has proven itself valuable at the World Cup. Soon, VAR will be commonplace in the top leagues around the world.

Photograph by Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro)