Video assistant referee

The video assistant referee (VAR) is an association football assistant referee who reviews decisions made by the head referee with the use of video footage and a headset for communication. In 2018 VARs were written into the Laws of the Game by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) following trials in a number of major competitions.[1]


There are 4 types of calls that can be reviewed.[2]

The standard for overturning the referee's original decision is that there has been a "clear error", sometimes expanded to "clear and obvious error".[3]

The process begins with the video assistant referee(s) and the assistant video assistant referee (AVAR) reviewing the play in question on a bank of monitors in the video operation room (VOR) with the assistance of the replay operator (RO). This can be triggered by the referee requesting the review or by the VAR conducting a "check" to see if he or she should recommend a review to the referee. If the VAR finds nothing during the check, then communication with the referee is unnecessary, which is called a "silent check". If the VAR believes there has been a potential clear error, he or she will contact the referee with that judgment. The referee can then either (a) change the call on the advice of the VAR or (b) conduct an on-field review (OFR) by going to a designated spot on the sideline, called the referee review area (RRA), to review the video with the help of the review assistant (RA) or (c) decide that he/she is confident in the original call and not conduct an OFR. The referee is allowed to stop play to reverse a call or conduct an OFR, but is not supposed to do so when either team is engaged in good attacking possibility.[2]

The official signal for a video review is the referee making the outline of a rectangle with his index fingers (indicating a video screen). This precedes both any OFR as well as any change in the original call. Players who demand a video review by making the rectangle motion are to be cautioned with a yellow card. Players who enter the area where the referee conducts an OFR are also to be cautioned with a yellow card, and team officials who do so are to be dismissed.[2]

There are guidelines the referee and the VAR should follow in conducting a video review. For example, slow motion should only be used for "point of contact" offences, such as physical offences and handballs. Regular speed should be used to determine the intensity of an offence and whether a handball was deliberate.[4] Reviews for goals, penalty kick decisions, and red cards for denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity cover the period back to the beginning of the "attacking possession phase" (APP), when the attacking team first gained possession of the ball or restarted play.[5] Other reviews only cover the incident itself.[4]

The VAR will be a current or former referee.[6]


The International Football Association Board (IFAB), the body that determines the Laws of the Game, approved the use of video referees in trials during its 2016 Annual General Meeting.[7]

A live trial of the VAR system began in August 2016 with a United Soccer League match between two Major League Soccer reserve sides.[8] Match referee Ismail Elfath reviewed two fouls during the match and, after consultation with video assistant referee Allen Chapman, decided to issue a red card and a yellow card in the respective incidents.[9] Video reviews were introduced the following month during an international friendly between France and Italy.[10] A "pitchside monitor" was introduced at the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup, allowing referees to review footage from the field.[11] The A-League in Australia became the first to use a VAR system in a professional league game on 7 April 2017, when Melbourne City played Adelaide United.[12] The game was completed without the VAR being called upon. The first intervention by a VAR in a professional league game was seen on 8 April when Wellington Phoenix hosted Sydney FC. The VAR identified an illegal handball in the penalty area and awarded Sydney FC a penalty. The game finished in a 1–1 draw.[13][14]

Major League Soccer in the United States introduced VARs in competitive matches during its 2017 season after the 2017 MLS All-Star Game on 2 August 2017.[15][16] Its first official use came during a match between the Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas, invalidating a goal from the latter over contact made between a Dallas player and Philadelphia's goalkeeper.[17] VAR was used at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in June, where it was praised but its usefulness was questioned after a referee decision in the final match.[18][19] The system was introduced to most top-tier European leagues at the beginning of the 2017–18 season, with the exception of England's Premier League.[20] The system was also used at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in October.[21]

On 8 January 2018, VAR was trialled for the first time in England in the 2017–18 FA Cup game between Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace.,[22] and the following day it was trialled for the first time in France in the Côte d'Azur derby game in the French League Cup — it was said to have worked well.[23]

Italy opened the world's first VAR training centre in Coverciano in January 2018.[24]

On 3 March 2018, the IFAB wrote the VARs into the Laws of the Game on a permanent basis.[25] Their use remains optional for competitions, and the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League are not expected to implement VAR for their 2018–19 seasons.[25] FIFA officially approved the use of VAR for the 2018 FIFA World Cup during the FIFA Council meeting on 16 March 2018 in Bogotá.[26][27][28]

Assistant video assistant referee[]

The assistant video assistant referee (AVAR) is a current or former referee appointed to assist the VAR in the VOR. The responsibilities of the AVAR include watching the live action on the field while the VAR is undertaking a "check" or a "review", to keep notes of incidents, and to communicate the outcome of a review to broadcasters.[6]


During the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup Final in Japan, the first trial of the VAR in an international club competition, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane called the system a source of confusion.[29]

The use of video technology at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup was criticised after several contentious moments involving VAR at the tournament. It was accused of "creating as much confusion as clarity".[30][31]


In a Portuguese Primeira Liga game between Boavista and Aves in February 2018, an Aves goal that many observers felt was offside was allowed after it was discovered that a Boavista supporter's flag had been obscuring the VAR camera. With no VAR evidence available, the referee was required to let the goal stand.[32][33]

In a Bundesliga match between Mainz and Freiburg in April 2018, players were instructed to return to the pitch, having left for half time, after VAR determined that a penalty was due.[34][35]

See also[]


  1. ^ "Historic step for greater fairness in football". International Football Association Board. 3 March 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c "Video Assistant Referees (VARs) Experiment – Protocol (Summary)" (PDF). International Football Association Board. 26 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  3. ^ Podcast, Planet Futbol. "Howard Webb on video replay and its future in soccer". Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREES (VARs) - Implementation handbook for Competitions". IFAB. Retrieved 3 March 2018. 
  5. ^ Rumsby, Ben (7 January 2018). "Video technology will not make football a mistake-free sport, warns referee chief Mike Riley". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 March 2018. 
  6. ^ a b Platt, Oli (18 January 2018). "What is VAR? The video assistant referee system's World Cup & Premier League future |". Goal. Retrieved 3 March 2018. 
  7. ^ "Minutes of the 130th Annual General Meeting of the International Football Association Board". IFAB. pp. 13–17. Retrieved 3 March 2018. 
  8. ^ Alvarez, Liana (19 August 2016). "MLS makes soccer history with debut of video assistant referees". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Williams, Bob (13 August 2016). "Video assistant referees edge closer after successful trial in United States". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 
  10. ^ Rumsby, Ben (2 September 2016). "Video replays used for first time during France's 3–1 friendly win over Italy as 'football history' made". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 
  11. ^ "Video replays: Referees to use pitch-side monitors at Fifa's Club World Cup". BBC Sport. 7 December 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 
  12. ^ "Hyundai A-League first to use Video Assistant Referees". Hyundai A-League. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  13. ^ "Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC video, highlights: Sky Blues concede late after VAR call". Fox Sports. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  14. ^ "World first as video assistant referee called into action in Wellington and Sydney FC stalemate". The Guardian. 8 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  15. ^ Borg, Simon (10 December 2016). "MLS will seek to introduce Video Assistant Referees (VAR) during 2017". Major League Soccer. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 
  16. ^ Goldberg, Jamie (14 March 2017). "MLS leads the way among soccer leagues worldwide as it prepares to roll out video replay". The Oregonian. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  17. ^ "Video review debuts in MLS, rules out goal in Dallas' first-ever loss to Union". ESPN FC. 5 August 2017. Retrieved 6 August 2017. 
  18. ^ Ogden, Mark (2 July 2017). "VAR creates as much confusion as clarity in Confederations Cup final". ESPN. Retrieved 4 March 2018. 
  19. ^ "Russia 2017, VAR praised at closing press conference" (Press release). FIFA. 1 July 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2018. 
  20. ^ Kohli, Siddharth (17 August 2017). "VAR: The good, the bad and the ugly". CNN. Retrieved 4 March 2018. 
  21. ^ "Football poised to change forever with the introduction of Video Assistant Referee system". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. 9 March 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  22. ^ "FA Cup trial for Video Assistant Referee". 
  23. ^ "Nice-Monaco: la vidéo "a très bien fonctionné"". 10 January 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018. 
  24. ^ "Italy host first VAR training centre". Football Italia. 19 December 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2018. 
  25. ^ a b Conway, Richard (3 March 2018). "VAR: Video assistant referees set to be used at 2018 World Cup in Russia". BBC. Retrieved 4 March 2018. 
  26. ^ "IFAB comes to landmark decision about VAR". Fédération Internationale de Football Association. 3 March 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2018. 
  27. ^ "VAR discussed at IFAB media briefing". Fédération Internationale de Football Association. 3 March 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2018. 
  28. ^ "FIFA finally approves video review to use at World Cup". The Washington Post. 16 March 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2018. 
  29. ^ McKirdy, Andrew (16 December 2016). "Zidane questions video reviews after Madrid's Club World Cup semifinal win". The Japan Times. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 
  30. ^ "Confederations Cup: Video assistant referee system 'a shambles'". BBC. 2 July 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2018. 
  31. ^ "VAR creates as much confusion as clarity in Confederations Cup final". ESPN. 2 July 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2018. 
  32. ^ Browne, PJ (7 February 2018). "Watch: Flag Waving Fan Causes VAR Chaos In Portugal". Retrieved 4 March 2018. 
  33. ^ "VAR and the giant flag: how a match in Portugal became the scene of farce". the Guardian. 7 February 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Bundesliga players called back to pitch for penalty in half-time amid VAR chaos". Guardian. 16 April 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2018. 

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