What is VAR in soccer? VAR stands for ‘video assistant referee’ and is a soccer match official who assists the field referee in the event there is a clear error or missed incident related to a goal or penalty.
During a single match, there are many crucial plays over the course of 90-minutes that could determine that outcome of the game.
From making a split-second decision to providing an advantage to calling offsides and everything in between, officials carry a lot of responsibilities to make the correct call. But, as we understand, officials are human too and can easily make mistakes.
For this reason, another official, respectively the VAR, comes into play to either confirm a play call or overturn it.
So, what exactly is a VAR? Let’s find out!
What Is a VAR?
A VAR or Video Assistant Referee essentially serves as the 5th referee of a soccer match.
On the field, there are multiple cameras that record what happens during the soccer game, showing the images on monitors.
This allows the referee to zoom in on certain scenes or slow them down to notice potential errors of judgment on the field.
When this occurs, the head referee can talk to the VAR team and check for any errors.
This helps him or her decide the outcome of the situation accordingly. Therefore, VAR helps the referees make the correct calls by video replay.
In case the AVAR (assistant video assistant referee) thinks that the main referee made the wrong call or missed important pieces of information, they will use an earpiece to offer them the information.
However, if a certain call is too severe or incorrect, the head referee has the right to ignore the ruling of the VAR.
When Does a VAR Come Into Play?
Errors that the VAR may help the referee with include:
- Penalty or no penalty
- Goal or no goal
- Mistaken identity cases (such as when the wrong player is sent off by the referee)
- Direct red card
No matter which of the above situations takes place, the VAR can only intervene when a referee has already made a decision.
VARs can also analyze whether the referee’s decision to let the play continue was the correct one. So, if the referee did not make any decision yet, the VAR’s intervention will not be necessary.
In the end, it is not the VAR who makes the final decision, but the head referee. The VAR’s information can only aid the head referee to come to a conclusion and make the best decision possible for that particular scenario.
What Is the VAR Not Allowed to Review?
The VAR is there to review the head referee’s decisions and provide them with information whenever some important detail has been omitted. Still, there are cases that a VAR cannot review.
For instance, VARs cannot review corner kicks, first and second yellow card decisions, or handballs (when there is no goal or penalty decision).
How Did VAR Become a Thing?
Now that you know what a VAR is, you might be wondering how it all began.
The VAR doesn’t have much of a history (unless you’re reading this in 2072).
It all began during the 2012-2013 season in the highest Netherlands football league with the Eredivisie Referee 2.0 project. The program had to be tested first, and the results were very promising.
Subsequently, the Royal Dutch Football Association gave the International Football Association Board (IFAB) their results.
Following more testing by the IFAB, it was time for VAR to see the light of day. The technology was first implemented during the match between PSV and FC Eindhoven in July of 2016.
Then, in that same year, it was also introduced to the Major League Soccer (MLS) game.
The VAR allowed for the right calls to be made twice, which is what allowed it to be promoted even more and eventually become more mainstream. As such, the FIFA Club World Cup in 2016 also included the VAR.
Moving forward, the Portuguese Football Federation also began taking advantage of VAR and adding it to their games. Italy, France, and England also started incorporating it in their matches in 2018.
As a result of the positive outcomes, VAR was added to the Laws of the Game by IFAB in 2018.
VARs in the World Cup
After making its debut in the 2018 Russian World Cup, VAR was also used at the 2022 Qatar World Cup. And, it’s probably here to stay during international play.
In the 2022 World Cup, there were 24 video match officials, 69 assistants, and 36 referees that were part of the exciting soccer event.
Some of the VAR officials that were members were:
- Bastian Dankert (Germany)
- Marco Fritz (Germany)
- Drew Fischer (Canada)
- Jerome Brisard (France)
- Massimiliano Irrati (Italy)
- Paolo Valeri (Italy)
- Armando Villarreal (USA)
How Is a VAR Check Signaled?
When you watch soccer games, you will see a referee signal a VAR check.
When a VAR review is about to take place, the head official will put his or her hands on their earpiece, then use their hands to create an invisible rectangle box.
Does VAR Have a Time Limit?
While VAR is very useful, the issue with it is that it has no time limit. Which can get boring for many impatient fans.
The good news is that you do not have to wait too long until the VAR reviews all the images and offers information to the head referee. This usually take a few minutes to do so, then they explain everything to the referee.
Whether you want to pay more attention to the VAR when you watch soccer matches or work as a VAR yourself, you should know what it involves. We hope this article helped you understand this useful technology.
VAR is very important as it can notice potential mistakes or things that the other officials may have missed. It will then provide the head referee with this information and allows them to make the right decision.
It almost eliminates heartbreaking outcomes that are determined by human error.
Does it take away the flow from the game? A little. Does it make the calls more fair? Yes.
If you want to become a VAR, get ready to put your patience to the test and pay attention to every little aspect of the match.