Video Assistance to the Referee, commonly known as VAR (Video Assistant Referee), is a video refereeing system that is gradually gaining momentum. It consists of a set of cameras installed on the field of play that broadcast the match live to a room, which help a group of video assistants to review the most controversial plays.
The official regulations of this system state that it can only be used in four situations: goals, penalties, red cards and confusion over the identity of a player. In no case is VAR to be used to review offside, although if this play has influenced a goal, it can be reversed.
How does it work?
In the event of a play that could be reviewed, the referee or the video assistants contact the referee via the earpiece. At that precise moment, play is stopped and the video assistants play the play on a screen as many times as necessary until a decision is made, which is immediately communicated to the referee.
However, the referee always has the final say. The referee decides solely on the basis of the information received by the video assistants, although he may also consult the replay images on a monitor on the touch line.
What are its origins?
The origins of VAR date back to March 2016. FIFA president Gianni Infantino approved the use of this system for international football. Its effectiveness was tested in several friendly matches, which preceded its official debut at the Club World Cup in December.
Referee Viktor Kassai was the first to award a penalty with the help of video assistance. This took place during the match between Kashima and Atlético Nacional. Although the knock-down was very clear, the referee decided to make use of the VAR because the play was very controversial, as it was preceded by an offside.
What situations can be reviewed?
- There are plays which, if not correctly called, can radically change the course of a match. Therefore, the referee may rely on video refereeing in these cases:
- Goals: according to the regulations, one of the main functions of the VAR is to assist the referee in assessing whether an infringement has been committed which causes the goal to be disallowed. During this consultation, the pace of the match will not be affected, as play stops once the ball crosses the goal line. Although it was believed that video refereeing could not cover offside, it could be enabled to verify an action that has led to a goal.
- Penalties: thanks to video refereeing, no mistakes will be made when a penalty is called. The video assistants will consult the play as many times as necessary to reach a conclusion.
- Red cards: a player’s wrongful dismissal can be the deciding factor in a match. The use of VAR will prevent such mistakes.
- Mistaken identity: on some occasions it has happened that the referee has cautioned or sent off the wrong player, or has even been unclear which player has committed an offence. In order to avoid such situations, video assistants can communicate with the referee so that he can caution the player concerned.