What is var in soccer? Understanding the Video Assistant Referee (VAR)
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What is var in soccer?
The world of soccer is constantly evolving, and one of the most significant changes in recent years is the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system. This technology aims to assist match officials in making more accurate decisions during games, ultimately improving the sport’s fairness and reducing controversial moments. In this comprehensive article, we will explore the history, implementation, and impact of VAR in soccer, as well as its advantages and disadvantages.
The Evolution of VAR in Soccer
The concept of VAR was born out of the Refereeing 2.0 project in the early 2010s, led by the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB). The goal was to explore the possibility of using technology to assist referees in making better decisions on the field. After extensive mock trial testing during the 2012-13 Eredivisie season, the KNVB petitioned the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to allow the use of VAR in more extensive trials.
IFAB Approval and Initial Trials
In 2016, IFAB approved the use of VAR for live experiments, focusing on “clear errors in match-changing situations.” The first live trial of the VAR system took place in a friendly match between PSV and FC Eindhoven in July 2016. Further trials were conducted in various leagues and competitions, including the United Soccer League, FA Cup, and EFL Cup.
Following the successful trials, IFAB officially incorporated VAR into the Laws of the Game on March 3, 2018. Since then, numerous competitions, including prominent leagues such as the Premier League, Bundesliga, and Serie A, have adopted the system.
The VAR System: How Does It Work?
The VAR Team
The VAR system consists of a team of match officials working off the field. This team includes the main Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and one or more Assistant Video Assistant Referees (AVARs). The VAR is responsible for reviewing match incidents, while the AVARs assist by monitoring live action and communicating the outcomes of VAR reviews to broadcasters and other relevant parties.
VAR is permitted to review four types of decisions:
- Goals: VAR can review whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed, taking into consideration any potential offenses or infringements during the build-up to the goal.
- Penalty decisions: VAR can verify if a penalty should be awarded, considering factors such as the location and nature of a foul, or if the ball went out of play before the foul occurred.
- Direct red card decisions: VAR reviews incidents where a player is shown a direct red card, determining if the decision is justified, should be downgraded to a yellow card, or rescinded entirely.
- Mistaken identity decisions: In cases where a referee penalizes or sends off the wrong player, VAR can review the incident to ensure the correct player receives the appropriate discipline.
The Review Process
The VAR team automatically checks every on-field referee decision that falls under the four reviewable categories. If the VAR does not identify any mistakes during the check, the referee will be informed, and the game will continue without any interruptions.
However, if the VAR identifies a potential clear and obvious error, there are three possible scenarios:
- Decision overturned on advice of VAR: In cases where the error relates to a factual matter, the referee can overturn the decision without conducting an on-field review (OFR).
- On-field review (OFR) recommended: When there is a subjective decision to make, such as determining if a foul was committed or if a red card is warranted, the VAR may recommend an OFR. The final decision still lies with the on-field referee.
- Referee chooses to ignore VAR advice: Ultimately, the on-field referee has the final say and can choose to disregard the VAR’s advice if they believe it is incorrect or unnecessary.
Key Aspects of VAR
Referee Review Area (RRA)
The RRA is a designated area adjacent to the field of play where the on-field referee can review video footage during an OFR. This area ensures transparency, as it allows the referee to view different camera angles and slow-motion replays before making a decision.
Offenses and Penalties
The Laws of the Game include specific offenses related to the VAR process. Players and team officials can be cautioned for excessively protesting an on-field decision by making the TV signal gesture. Additionally, entering the RRA or the Video Operation Room (VOR) can result in a yellow card or a red card, respectively.
VAR Hub and Centralized Review Locations
The VAR team is often located within the stadium where the match is being played. However, some leagues have adopted a centralized review location, such as the English Premier League’s Video Operation Room (VOR) at Stockley Park in London and the German Football Association’s facility in Cologne-Deutz.
The Impact of VAR
Improved Accuracy and Fairness
According to FIFA, VAR made the correct call 99.3% of the time during the 2018 World Cup, compared to the 95% accuracy rate of referees without VAR assistance. This improvement in decision-making has led to a cleaner game, with fewer controversial moments and a more level playing field for all teams involved.
Increased Penalties and Red Cards
The introduction of VAR has led to a significant increase in the number of penalties awarded in competitions, as the system can catch fouls that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. This increase in penalties has resulted in more goals being scored from the penalty spot.
Criticisms and Controversies
Despite its positive impact on the sport, VAR has faced criticism for several reasons. Some argue that the system disrupts the flow and emotions of the game, while others believe that it lacks clarity and consistency in its rulings. Furthermore, the system is not infallible, as it can still make incorrect calls or fail to review certain incidents.
The Future of VAR
As the system continues to evolve and improve, it is expected that more and more leagues and competitions will adopt VAR technology. Additionally, advancements in AI and machine learning may further enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the VAR system in the future.
The Video Assistant Referee system has undoubtedly made a significant impact on the world of soccer. While it is not without its flaws and controversies, the benefits of improved accuracy, fairness, and transparency in decision-making cannot be ignored. As technology advances and the system continues to be refined, the role of VAR in soccer is likely to become even more prominent and essential to the sport.