For spectators, the reference of VAR by the commentators is a very new part of football terminology. And after the increased use during the World Cup 2018, we wanted to create an article investigating further into what VAR actually is.

Believed to greatly improve the accuracy of referee opinions, below we will take a look into how this form of video recall is beneficial. And to review this fully, we will also discuss instances where the intervention of VAR was inconclusive or faulted.

About VAR

VAR stands for Video Assistant Referees, and its main purpose is to ensure that all decisions regarding the treatment of incidents are kept fair and accurate for both sides. As the on-pitch referees often could miss a significant occurrence of an infringement of rules, or even favour one squad over another, this type of reassurance from a team of referees improves the accuracy of ref decisions.

The four main incidents where this type of recall would be needed are:

  • Goals – VAR is used to tell if the ball crossed the line and the game is paused during this check to avoid any direct impact of this wait on the match.
  • Penalties – VAR is checked when it comes to awarding penalties to ensure that they have been given in the correct circumstances.
  • Red Cards – VAR is referred to when directing a red card at a single player as the footage is able to confirm if this action was required.
  • Mistaken Identity – VAR is there to validate the referees’ decision in a way that does not see the incorrect player receiving disciplinary action.

What happens during these instances, is that the VAR team will communicate with the on-pitch referee and confirm what was visually seen when reviewing the recorded footage. And from here they can all agree on the best course of action to take when it comes to reprimanding a player or awarding a penalty.

Usage of VAR

VAR has been used during 804 matches across its two year worldwide trial. The most recent occurrence of this being used was for the FIFA World Cup 2018 matches in Russia. It is also expected to be used for 15 games in the 2018/19 Premier League tournament. Throughout its trial, VAR has increased the accuracy of referee decisions greatly by taking them from 93% to 98.9%. The first time this type of visual recall was introduced was at the Club World Cup in 2016.

During the FIFA World Cup 2018 it was used during a number of games, and although it appears to be a very beneficial piece of kit, it also has its drawbacks when it comes to the referees’ choice of action when on the pitch. Below we will take a look at some instances where the VAR was invaluable. And also mention cases where it was used and was unsuccessful at resolving an incident.

Benefits for Video Assistant Referees

The first instance where VAR was called upon for English football was during the Leicester City and Fleetwood Carabao Cup clash. During this game the goal from Kelechi Ihelanacho was deemed offside, however he was soon awarded the net after reviewing the VAR footage of the goal attempt.

One main benefit of using VAR to assist with decisions is that is greatly reduces the time spent reviewing the issue while on the field. As looking at statistics the average amount of game time that is used to review the footage and come to a unanimous agreement is 1% which is a spectacular reduction. This is especially key when it comes to incidents that the ref did not see clearly and aims to eliminate any chance of player conflict during the plan of action time the referee would take.

Within the 804 matches that Video Assistant Referees were called upon, there were just under 4,000 checks made by the respective ref at the time. And when looking at the averages of this it means that less than 5 checks were made for each game. Along with this 24% of all matches received a positive affect by the assistance of the video recordings.

Fall backs of Using VAR

One instance where VAR was not called upon to change the decision of the on-pitch ref was during a Chelsea vs Norwich match. This unfortunately saw Chelsea lose out on a penalty after the ref cautioned Willian for his actions.

As mentioned by the International Football Association Board, checking if a player is offside on the VAR recordings is one of the more difficult tasks. This is down to the fact that on the footage they are unable to gauge the exact dimensions of the pitch. Along with this the angle and distortions seen by the camera lenses make it increasingly difficult to visualise the lines in order to accurately place the player on the field.

During their interview discussing this topic the IFAB also mentioned that a player should not question a referee’s decision by indicating the VAR television shape with their hands. This also goes for coaches too as this question of their authority is very disrespectful and the ref will call upon the VAR team or vice versa if they feel like the visual account of the incident needs to be reviewed.

How do You Feel About VAR Being Used?

Now we have explored the newly trialled VAR further, we want to know your opinions on the usage of this technology. Do you feel like this a much-needed introduction to the football world or should we still rely on the judgement of the referee? Let us know over on our social media pages where we look forward to discussing this relatively new topic with you all!

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This article was written exclusively for Soccer Box by Loren Astbury.