Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, will feature during the upcoming World Cup in Russia. Here’s all you need to know about how VAR works.
In an attempt to avoid contentious refereeing decisions, VAR has been implemented or tested in various leagues and competitions since 2016, when it made its debut in a USL game. This summer, it will be used at every match during the 2018 World Cup. By and large, VAR ‘s purpose is to provide video evidence ensuring the correct decision is made on the field.
The first thing to know about VAR is that it can only be used in the following four situations:
- Penalty decisions
- Red card incidents
- Mistaken identity (in the event that the wrong player is cautioned or sent off).
When either of these four incidents occurs under ambiguous circumstances, either the game referee or the VARs in the video review room can recommend that a video review takes place to ensure the correct decision is ultimately made.
The referee and the VARs are in constant communication through headsets. VARs are constantly evaluating in the background and have the ability to contact the referee in real time, should a controversial play occur. After any one of the four incidents above occurs and either the referee on the field or the VARs in the video room deem the incident unclear enough to warrant a review, the referee heads to the sideline, where he’ll review the play in question while communicating with the VARs via headset.
The final decision rests with the referee. The referee reviews the play, receives and discusses the information related to the play in question with the VARs in the video room and makes the final decision.
An independent study conducted by the Belgian university KU Leuven has found that VAR has improved correct decision making from 93 to 98 percent of cases.
The biggest criticism related to VAR is that it breaks the flow of the game. On average, the VAR process requires a minute and a half to review. To put things in perspective, that’s similar to the amount of time spent on setting up a free-kick outside the opponent’s penalty box.