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What is VAR? Learn How VAR Works

VAR (Video Assistant Referee) has been in other sports such as rugby and cricket for years. But for football, it’s all new. The idea of VAR is to officiate the games better and provide a more enhanced sport which it does do, sometimes. Unfortunately all too often in football it has gone wrong. It is because of it’s errors that it has become a hugely controversial talking point between FIFA, the clubs and the fans. So we are going to try and clear up just what is VAR and let you know exactly how it is meant to work in theory. Since VAR has come into the game, there have been so many shock results due to the amount of goals being chalked off, reading football predictions can almost be useless due to the amount of shocks on show.

What is VAR?

It is a nominated match official in association football who aids the on-pitch, head referee with decision making using video playback and a headset to communicate. It is in theory meant to be to minimise human error that has a big impact on the result of the games and provide a way for ‘clear and obvious errors’ and incidents on the pitch to be reviewed for fairness. They operate using the slogan ‘minimal interference, maximum benefit’ to do this but have all too often caused controversy within the footballing world with the complete change in the game it has brought. 

When is VAR meant to be used?

There are 3 main incidents and 1 administrative cause for invoking the use of VAR.

Goals: VAR operates when there are goals scored to verify that there has not been any infringements or foul play in the build up to the goal which would deem it unfair or unlawful. 

Penalty Decisions: The role of VAR with penalties is to determine if there were any wrong decisions made by the on-pitch referee in conjunction with the awarding of penalties or non-awarding of penalties. 

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Direct Red Card Incidents: VAR is used when it comes to red cards to ensure no clearly wrong decisions were made when a referee is conducting a red card sending off. It can also be used to induce the referee to review a decision made by himself and overturn it if the VAR team thinks that this is necessary. 

Mistaken Identity: This is the administrative cause for invoking VAR. It is used if the referee is deemed to have sent off the wrong player, cautioned the wrong player or is unsure who to caution in an incident. VAR will inform the referee of the correct identity. 

How does VAR work?

So the way VAR actually works in practice is a simple 3 step process of decision making. 

  1. The referee will inform VAR or VAR will inform the referee that they should review the incident/decision which has occured. 
  2. VAR will proceed to review the video footage of the incident in question and investigate it further. They will inform the referee exactly what they are seeing on the VAR screens. 
  3. The referee has to decide whether to consult the pitchside monitor to view it for himself and decide or take direct action using the VAR decision.

Hopefully that clears up what VAR actually is and you have learned the way that it works and in what circumstances. Regardless of the way it is meant to operate in theory, all too often VAR becomes somewhat subjective to the officials on the pitch and so loses its power and causes controversy. Despite its many hiccups at the start of its implementation in football, VAR is getting more consistent and better at decision making. It will take a while not to be controversial but those opposed to it better get used to it because FIFA have said it is here to stay!

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