For the first time ever in a World Cup, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has made an appearance. It was previously used as a trial run in the FA Cup this past season so England fans have most likely already been acquainted with this new referee system. Although there were some complaints, FIFA has ensured players, coaches, and supporters that the system will be way more efficient and accurate in the cup.
What is VAR?
Var is soccer’s first technology aid in helping referees make decisions. The intention is for referees to make the right call and avoid any mistakes or ambiguity. This way there shouldn’t be the call that ends up costing a team the game. In Brazil four years ago, goal-line technology was successfully established, but this is the first cup where video replays are present.
How is VAR used?
Picture four referees sitting in a tiny video operation room in Moscow. They follow the game live on multiple televisions, and with the thirty-three different cameras set up along with two offside cameras, they’re provided with pretty much every angle of the game. Big Brother is watching. Anyway, these referees can directly communicate with the on-field refs via radio microphone, which allows everyone to be on the same page.
When can VAR be used?
There are four main areas when VAR can be used and that is goals, penalties, straight red cards and situations with mistaken identity. So if a ref makes an obviously incorrect call, then his VAR buddies consult the video footage and whisper sweet nothings along with some advice into the on-field ref’s ears.
Goals: For goals, the most common use of VAR is clearing the air for whether or not a player was offsides after a goal was scored. As a result, there is no confusion and fair play ensues.
Penalties: This area is where VAR sees the most action. Penalties are largely debatable and players along with the coaches and fans are quick to become argumentative. All of this is avoided though when the tapes are played back. For example, if there’s a foul in the box, the VAR squad can advise the ref to check the replays to either confirm or go against the original call; however, the final decision is up to the on-field ref.
Red Cards: If the ref makes a call proceeded by him whipping out a red card, but then backlash follows, the ref can check the VAR and if it looks as though he made the wrong call, he is able to revoke the red. This applies as well when the situation is reversed. If the ref doesn’t at first issue a red card but then realizes that the player was more than deserving of one, he can with the help of VAR, reevaluate the play and modify his decision.
Also, what’s even cooler and really lets you know that we’re in the 21st century, is if a ref misses a play that is deserving of a red card, then VAR will notify the ref as the game is continuing. Therefore, a player who flew under the radar of the on-field refs could then receive a red card later in the game for that play courtesy of good ole VAR.
Mistaken Identity: VAR can be used in even the most awkward situations. For instance, it would have been handy back in 2014 during the Chelsea vs. Arsenal team when the ref ordered Kieran Gibbs to leave the field instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. If VAR was around back then, the ref would have been informed that he had penalized the wrong player.
The main point of VAR is to create a game that is both fair and null of confusion. It’s meant to help, not hurt. However, there are some shortcomings to the technology. For one, fans are currently not informed of when a decision is reviewed, particularly in stadiums that offer no large screens. Additionally, the amount of time it takes for VAR to review a call can result in significant stoppage time. Finally, part of the culture of the game is lost when players are forced to hesitate or postpone their celebrations.
As soon as a goal is scored, players can’t automatically break out their victory dance, because now there exists a chance the goal may be retracted. Overall though, the introduction of this technology is just another way in which the game we love is evolving.