Football has changed a lot and a big change is VAR or Video Assistant Referee. This technology helps referees make better decisions during a game. It’s like having an extra pair of eyes for the hard-to-see moments that happen fast.
How VAR Works
VAR is used in football to check and correct clear mistakes made by the on-field referee. It operates with a team of officials who monitor the game from a separate room full of screens. They look at different camera angles to review incidents and help the main referee with four specific types of decisions: goals, penalties, direct red cards, and mistaken identity when awarding cards.
The main referee has the final say but can get advice from the VAR team. If they think a clear error has happened, they tell the main referee, who can then change the decision, look at the video themselves, or stick with their original call.
The Four Checks of VAR
VAR checks for four main incidents in a football game:
1. Goals – VAR looks at whether a goal should count. It checks if there was a foul during the play or if the ball was out of play beforehand.
2. Penalties – VAR reviews if a foul occurred in the penalty area and should result in a penalty kick.
3. Red Cards – VAR checks if a player should get a direct red card for serious fouls.
4. Mistaken Identity – If the referee punishes the wrong player, VAR steps in to correct it.
Referees and VAR: The Final Decision
Although VAR provides advice, the on-field referee has the power to make the final decision. “The referee’s decision is always the last,” says Pierluigi Collina, FIFA’s Chief Refereeing Officer. “VAR is there to support, not replace.”
During the 2018 World Cup, VAR showed its effectiveness. FIFA reported that VAR had a 99.3% accuracy rate in decisions, which was an improvement over referees without VAR. But it’s not just about statistics. During a game between England and Tunisia in 2018, a penalty appeal for Harry Kane was reviewed. The VAR team noticed a foul by England before the penalty claim, which the audience didn’t see at the time. This shows how VAR can spot things that even viewers at home may miss.
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New Tech on the Field
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar took VAR a step further by introducing semi-automated offside technology. Cameras around the stadium and a sensor in the ball work together to track player positions. This new system helps referees make offside calls more quickly, keeping the game flowing.
FIFA’s Director of Football Technology & Innovation, Johannes Holzmüller, emphasized the benefits of this new system: “Our goal is to provide the best possible support for referees, to allow them to make fast, accurate, and consistent decisions.”
Despite its benefits, VAR is not without its critics. Some argue that it interrupts the flow of the game and lacks clarity in the rules. However, supporters point to its accuracy and the way it has cleaned up the game.
Goal-Line Technology: An Added Bonus
Goal-line technology is another tool referees use at the World Cup. It quickly tells referees if the ball has crossed the goal line, which is one less thing for VAR to worry about.
Although still relatively new, VAR has already changed football. It helps referees and has made the game fairer. New systems like VAR always have room to get better, and they will keep getting better over time. Holzmüller says, “We’re only starting with VAR. There’s a lot more to come as we keep making the technology and how we use it better.
VAR is reshaping football, ensuring that crucial calls are accurate, which in turn supports fair play. People might still argue about it, but no one can ignore the role of VAR in today’s football. As the technology gets better and we use it more smoothly, VAR will become an even more important part of football.