If you’re a football viewer, you might have heard of or seen VAR in action by now. If not, let’s go over the newest technology in football. VAR or video assistance referee has been brought in use during international matches and with little usage so far, drawn flak by the players, coaches and pundits alike for varied reasons.
How does VAR work?
In the technology to adjudge contentious points during a match such as goals, penalties, bookings, fouls, offside or cases of mistaken identity, the technology is brought into use. An official is stationed having a look at the game on TV and clearly with a better viewpoint and with an option to rewind play in case of any dubious decision. The technology is used whenever there has been a “clear error” or “clear and obvious error”.
The official sign for an action being reviewed is when the on-field referee uses his index fingers to make an outline of a rectangle indicating a TV screen. Thereafter the role of video assistant referee(s) and the assistant video assistant referee (AVAR) comes into play. The officials are stationed behind multiple monitors in a video operation room (VOR) with the assistance of the replay operator (RO). It could be triggered by the on-field itself or a VAR can recommend a “check” to the on-field referee.
If the official behind the TV monitors finds nothing during the check, play continues as is. However, if the VAR finds something amiss in a decision made by the referee, then he/she can bring it to the on-field referee’s notice. Then the official has a choice to (a) change the call on the advice of the VAR; (b) conduct an on-field review (OFR) by going to a designated spot on the sideline to take a look at the clip or (c) decide that he/she is confident in the original call and choose not to conduct an on-field review.
When was it approved?
The VAR technology – alongside goal line technology which had come into use – was approved by International Football Association Board (IFAB) in June, 2016. IFAB determines the rules and laws of the game and introduces changes to improve the game.
When was it first used?
A live trial of VAR was conducting during a game of two reserve teams in the MLS. The referee reviewed two fouls during the match and decided to hand out a red card and a yellow card.
A wider and more popular implementation of VAR came when France faced Spain earlier in the year. Antoine Griezmann had headed into the goal but the referee consulted the extra official and the goal was ruled out for offside. In the same game, a Gerard Deulofeu goal was allowed to stand.
It has also been used during the Club World Cup, A-League, 2017 U-20 World Cup and 2017 Confederations Cup. It will also become a regular feature at Bundesliga and 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Criticism of VAR
Two main points of criticism for VAR is that it slows down the game due to the interruption in play and the confusion it causes at times – as has been visible at the Confederations Cup in Russia. A-League and referees chiefs have assured that a call will be taken in regard to a dubious decision within 40 seconds and any time lost to be added to stoppage time.
At the Confederations Cup, a lot of issues have been dealt with to the technology. Nani’s celebrations have been halted against Mexico; Mexico and Chile players have protested the VAR decision vehemently; New Zealand against Mexico was halted numerous times due to on-field skirmishes and Cameroon’s Ernest Mabouka had his yellow card turn to red after a review. There was further confusion as the referee sent Sebastien Siani off. Only after the players protested was the review-reviewed for the correct decision.
How it has been perceived?
“In general we have really good results but for sure… many aspects should be improved.” – Massimo Busacca, head of FIFA’s refereeing body
“VAR has created some confusion, and things have to be made clearer. The problem is that we have to adapt to what FIFA wants. Technology has to improve and that’s what it’s all about.” – Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid manager
“Video assistance is a new innovation which I don’t like, to be honest. It creates a lot of confusion and it’s not football, for me. We had a meeting with the referees the other day to discuss video assistance replays. I did not listen too much as I don’t expect it to continue.” – Luka Modric, Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder
“If it is verified and it is fair, why not [use VAR]. It changes our football a little. It is against us today but if we have to go through this it will be the same for everyone. Afterwards, without [VAR], it would have been different, but it is the evolution of football. That is how it will be.” – Didier Deschamps, France coach.