How the VAR Works and Its Impact on the Game

By Srikanth
9 Min Read
How the VAR Works and Its Impact on the Game 1

The head referee is assisted by two video assistants, working from a van at the stadium or from a special centralized VAR centre (as in England). For those interested in ensuring fair play, responsible gambling practices are equally important in maintaining the integrity of the sport. The referees are assisted by a replay operator, who, on command, shows episodes from the right angles and draws offside lines using special software.


Very Briefly on How the VAR Works

It is often forgotten, but video referees only intervene in five cases:

  • When there is a suspicion that a goal has been scored in misconduct
  • When a penalty is suspected
  • When there is a suspicion that a player deserves a straight red card
  • When there is a suspicion that a card has been shown to the wrong player.
  • When there is an offence on an 11-metre kick – for example, the goalkeeper has taken his foot off the line before the kick (at least one foot must remain on the line).

If the head referee has not recorded a possible offence, the VAR will switch on itself and review the moment. The game is not stopped during the initial review.

This leads to some comical stories: for example, in February this year, in the Tottenham v City match, the referee awarded a penalty to the home side more than two minutes after the offense had been committed, and the match continued for the entire two minutes. And sometimes even funnier: Felix Brih, in a Nations League match, first awarded a penalty to Switzerland, then watched the replay and awarded a penalty to Portugal because of an episode that has long since been forgotten.

Why Is the VAR Being Berated So Much?

In the EPL, the system is discussed almost every week. Let’s go through the specific complaints.

Claim 1: pixelated offsides are infuriating, and because of this, they don’t celebrate goals in football anymore

The human eye can not accurately record offsides, especially in difficult situations, so the assistant referees clearly need, to leave everything as before can not be. But there are still some disadvantages to the new technology.

The video referees use HawkEye software to determine offside – they use it to identify body points on which they draw lines. It is claimed to be extremely accurate, although even at a camera speed of 50 frames per second there is no certainty at the millimetre level. At least the EPL admit it – through the IFAB (involved in the development of the Laws of the Game) they want to push through changes and introduce a 10cm margin in favour of the attack. In that case, 9 of the 25 canceled Premier League goals this season would be counted. But such issues can’t be resolved quickly.

Adding to the offside claim is Jurgen Klopp’s claim that he no longer celebrates goals because any goal can be canceled. Here’s a statistic in response: as of the beginning of February, only 38 goals have been cancelled in the EPL, that’s only one in 18, 95% of the time a goal is scored. So it’s still okay to celebrate.

Claim 2: VAR kills the dynamics, matches are stretched to infinity

A few facts in response.

In order to minimise the time it takes to watch a moment, the EPL decided to upgrade the system back in the summer: the head referees don’t watch replays because there’s no point – the same referee, who can be trusted, sits behind the monitor in the VAR Centre. Conventionally speaking, Mike Dean could be working on the field today and in the VAR Centre tomorrow.

According to ESPN, two-thirds of EPL matches are played without any VAR intervention at all. They review the episodes, of course, but they don’t get involved because the head referee does fine without prompting.

Only in 3 per cent of cases, decisions of the VAR took more than 90 seconds (statistics as of November 2019).

Claim 3: referees still get it wrong

It seems to be the fairest claim of all. It was articulated most clearly by Jose Mourinho: “I can accept a referee’s mistake on the pitch, but I cannot accept the mistake of the man behind the monitor”.

Official statistics confirm this: according to the Premier League referees’ boss, in 91 per cent of key moments referees get it right, in 9 per cent of cases someone is unlucky. However, compared to last season (when there was no VAR), the percentage of correct decisions has increased by 9%.


Nowadays, in the 21st century, technology is increasingly being introduced into all spheres of human activity, and sport is no exception. In all sports there are many information technologies that serve as powerful assistants in the process of refereeing. Technology in sports has become such an integral part that it is impossible to imagine the existence of some disciplines without it. With the help of IT, many sports have changed their rules, becoming more open and dynamic, more impeccable and fair. This research will focus on football. Football is quite a conservative game, so some technologies appeared quite late in this sport. In 2016, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system was first introduced in a football match, and from the very first use of this technology, it was obvious that it was needed in modern football as it makes the game much fairer. VAR is an assisted video replay system that is needed by the referee to make a correct and fair decision at a certain controversial moment. The head referee can use it in different situations and as many times in one match as he thinks necessary.

For 4 years of its existence, this technology has changed football and its history in general. Firstly, the game became more accurate and honest from the players’ side, and secondly, different clubs had no possibility to interpret the wrong decisions of referees, as VAR corrected several times gross mistakes of referees, with the help of which the Club could achieve victory at the World Cup not fair and not deserved. On the other hand, football, according to fans and the players themselves, has become more boring since the advent of video refereeing. This conclusion can be drawn from the fact that numerous arguments and discussions have started to appear on the Internet about whether the VAR system is necessary in modern football. Some people say that this technology has made football more boring because of the many pauses that occur when using VAR. Others are simply unhappy with the technology because their favorite football club, which they have supported for a long period of time, has not won a certain trophy because goals scored or conceded were only counted due to video replay. Others, on the other hand, say that since the advent of VAR, football has become a more objective sport than it used to be. In general, this amount of controversy about the new technology is explained by the fact that the VAR system is imperfect and requires further improvements.

And do you think the advent of technology like VAR has had a positive impact on football?

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