After much anticipation the greatest show on earth, FIFA World Cup 2018 is here. Russia is the host this year and with them joins another 31 country to battle for the championship trophy. Total 64 matches will be played in 12 different stadiums across west Russia. This year for the first time FIFA has decided to introduce an additional system known as VAR/Video Assistant Referee to the tournament. So what is this VAR actually? How is it supposed to work and what is its purpose? In this article we are going to discuss in depth about this new concept.
What is VAR?
The term VAR stands for video assistant referee. This is an additional system in where the referee can review any specific part of video footage while running the match in order to provide fault free decisions. This technology is still in its early days and thus creates confusion for us football lovers. Following trials in a number of major competitions, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) wrote this technology into the Laws of the Game in 2018.
Use of VAR/Video Assistant Referee Technology
The VAR team’s role is to support the decision-making process of the on-field referee in four very specific match changing situations:
- Goals and whether there was a violation during the buildup
- Penalty decisions
- Direct red card decisions
- Mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card
However, any decision regarding a second yellow card can not be reviewed.
The process of using this tech may seem a bit obscure. First of all, only the referee can initiate a review procedure. And they will only do so in case of a close call. However, assistant referees have been told not to flag tight offside calls, as it (on paper at least) makes more sense to leave these decisions to the VAR team. After receiving the signal to review a decision, the VAR team located in a video operation room(VOR) reviews the decision and advises the on field referee regarding the decision. To be clear, the VAR team doesn’t make any final calls − it’s simply there to provide assistance. The ultimate decision lies with the on-field referee.
VAR/Video Assistant Referee Team in World Cup 2018
For the first time in the history, this tech is going to be used in a FIFA World Cup. The VAR team is based in a video operation room (VOR) in Moscow’s International Broadcast Centre. This team consists of one video assistant referee (VAR) and three assistant video assistant referees namely the AVAR1, AVAR2 and AVAR3. All of the VAR team member will be dressed in full refereeing kit.
The VAR team will have access to a pair of dedicated offside cameras and 33 broadcast cameras. Eight of those broadcast cameras are super slow-motion and four of them are ultra slow-motion. When the knockout games begin on June 30, an extra ultra slow-motion camera will be installed behind each goal.
According to FIFA, 13 referees will act solely as video assistant referees during the World Cup. Also some of the competition’s on-field referees and assistant referees will also lend a hand in the VOR.
The main video assistant referee will work alongside three assistants. However, each member of the team has their own specific role to play. The main VAR, who’s responsible for leading the VAR team and communicating with the on-field referee (by pushing a special button, so the referee isn’t distracted by conversations taking place in the VOR), will follow the game on one monitor and check and review incidents on another quad-split monitor.
The roles of the AVAR’s are quite different. The AVAR1 is tasked with following the game and keeping the VAR updated about live play whenever an incident is being checked or reviewed. Thus making sure the VAR doesn’t miss any controversial incidents while they’re busy checking another potentially controversial incidents.
Meanwhile, the AVAR2 is dedicated to offside decisions. It’s their job to anticipate and check any potential offside situations and to minimize disruption during the game.
The AVAR3 ensures communication between the AVAR1, AVAR2 and the lead VAR.
How Will VAR/Video Assistant Referee Reviews be Decided?
The VAR will be used when the on-field referee asks the VAR team to review an incident, or when the VAR team tells the on-field referee that a decision should be reviewed. The signal will be given by the referee drawing an imaginary box in mid-air with his fingers.
Then the VAR will review the incident and advise the referee what it thinks of the decision. As in a cricket match, they will not make the decision on behalf of the on-field referee.
Controversy Regarding VAR/Video Assistant Referee
This tech was first introduced in August 2016 with a United Soccer League match between two Major League Soccer(MLS) reserve sides. Since then it has drawn criticism regarding its necessity and usability. People on the field can not view the review, thus making it very hard for them to grasp a changed decision. It also takes quite a long time and thus takes away the pace of the game.
During the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup Final in Japan, the first trial of the VAR in an international competition, then Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane called the system a source of confusion. The use of VAR was also criticized at the FIFA confederations cup 2017 and was accused of creating more confusion than clarity.
Although this type of reviewing system has been used in other games like cricket for a while, the VAR is quite different in nature. And as this tech depends on both a great number of referees and cameras, it may sometimes cause a not so right decision to happen. However, as the world is embracing technology very fast we can hope the VAR tech will also win over their cons and make football games more competitive with fault free decisions. As in the case of this world cup, lets see their performance ourselves!