All about VAR in football: what, how and where?

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has quickly become a familiar phenomenon in today’s top football. What is the function of the video referee and when can he not intervene? We explain it to you briefly.

What is the primary function of the VAR system?

Tennis and hockey have long been aware of the technological aids of referees, and football needs more time to change course. Finally, VAR technology first appeared in 2016. During matches, a VAR team consists of two or more (assistant) referees. They are in contact with their colleagues in the field from a distance. Video referees follow the match on television and may appeal the referee’s decisions. The ultimate responsibility lies with the man or woman in the field, VAR is the “help line”.

How does this actually work? VAR can inform the referee on the field in case there are doubts about the decision that has been made. Then the referee often gets a chance to see the photos again in peace, via screens next to the square. VAR advice is non-binding. The referee can decide to agree or stick to his decision. The AS Monaco-PSV Champions League match on August 2, 2022 is a case in point. The VAR sees a potential hand-time penalty and invites the referee to the side. But he still didn’t put the ball on point, even after seeing the photos again.

When can VAR technology intervene?

The term “clear and obvious mistake” – an obvious mistake – is now well known to football fans. In other words, the VAR technology corrects the referee only in the event of serious and decisive errors. Did the referee reject or agree to a goal, right or wrong? Shouldn’t a yellow card actually be a red card? Or vice versa? Is the penalty kick justified?

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When is VAR not allowed to interfere?

The important match between PSV Eindhoven and Ajax in January 2022 sparked a lot of discussion. Did the ball cross the entire touch line before the winning goal for Ajax? It’s – with available camera images – not 100 percent certain for VAR. According to this reasoning, there is no doubt about a clear error on the part of the referee. That is why they do not interfere here and Ajax’s goal remains. This has been discussed for a long time.

The rules of the game in football often leave room for interpretation. Whistling remains a human activity, and there is not always a definitive definition of a clearly wrong decision. Offside is offside, but when is a foul serious enough or not serious enough to get a red card? What is the difference between conscious or unconscious hands? We have seen above at AS Monaco-PSV that the VAR and the referee sometimes have different interpretations.

How is VAR for football different from other sports?

There are no such gray areas in tennis. The so-called Hawk-Eye system governs whether or not the ball has crossed the entire line, without a middle ground. In most major leagues where Hawk-Eye is active, players can use electronic eyes 2-4 times per set. However, if they were right, they would still be entitled to 2 to 4 “challenges” per group.

Also in hockey, players can consult the video referee on their own initiative via the referee on the field. This is possible a maximum of once per game, provided that the request from one of the teams is justified. If the team is not right, that right expires for the rest of the game. The hockey referee can also handle the video referee himself if he has doubts about a decision that has been made.

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The biggest difference with football is the role of the teams. The VAR verifies all match situations and, in case of doubt, informs the referee himself. He can then decide if he wants to see the photos again. So football players or coaches do not play any role and cannot request a referee from the VAR themselves.

In which competitions in VAR are active?

The Eredivisie has been using VAR continuously since 2018. This will also be the case in the 2022/2023 season, with all 306 matches of the tournament as well as European football play-offs. In the KNVB Cup, this is usually only the case from the quarter-finals. One step down, in the Kitchen Champion section, there is no VAR. In the playoffs for promotion/relegation, at the end of the season, teams from both professional leagues meet. In this case, there is in principle the video assistant rule, provided that the coordination between all parties involved is correct. In the May 2022 issue, the video judging disappeared in the first round. Due to a misunderstanding with the announcer ESPN There are not enough cameras in the matches.

What about international competitions? VAR will be present during the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, after its World Cup debut in 2018. It is also used by the UEFA Champions League, from the third preliminary round entered by PSV Eindhoven. In the European League, where Feyenoord plays, video refereeing from the group stage can be used. In the first conference league season – 2021-2022, Feyenoord was the final loser – only VAR was used from the semi-finals. UEFA has not yet confirmed how things will play out in 2022/2023, but it has not yet used VAR in the preliminary rounds.

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In women’s football, video refereeing is not yet a given. The Orange Lionesses played with VAR during the European Championship (under the UEFA flag). However, they continued with the World Cup qualifiers (organized by FIFA) without electric refereeing. There is no VAR technology in the Dutch women’s league.

(Source: KNVB, FIFA, UEFA, Australian Open, KNHB, RTL Nieuws. Photo: Shutterstock)

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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