VAR in Football has been a hot topic of discussion since it crashed into the World Cup 2018.

What is VAR?

The Video Assistant Referee system, known as VAR, is football’s first use of video technology to reach more correct decisions. This is a similar piece of technology to the ones successfully used in Cricket, Rugby and Tennis.

The technology in the World Cup was restricted in order to not disrupt the game too frequently. It was only used for deciding goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity.

The difference between a VAR ‘review’ and VAR ‘check

VAR ‘checks’ often take place in the review room without people realising and are likely to have no impact on the flow of the game. Checks are signalled by a finger to the ear and a hand in the air, while reviews are indicated by making the sign of a TV screen, like you see in Rugby Union.

What is the debate?

The most common reason in the World Cup 2018 for VAR to be consulted was to check an offside decision after a goal was scored. The most problematic area was the awarding of penalties, as England witnessed in the World Cup. Penalties can be awarded or rescinded using VAR if there has been a ‘clear and obvious error’. However, how one defines that is very tricky and subjective. One referee may give a foul where another may not. A study of nearly 1,000 games by IFAB’s (International Football Association Board) shows decision accuracy to be improved from 93% to 98.8% thanks to VAR. Most fans would surely want to eradicate the human error as much as possible and get the right decisions on the pitch.

The other main criticism is that a VAR review disrupts the flow of play. But statistics show that VAR reviews aren’t that common and only come into play just over one in every three games. IFAB found:

  • 69.1% of games had no VAR review at all
  • 5.5% of games had more than one review
  • 57.4% of checks were for penalty incidents and goals
  • 42.1% of checks were for red card incidents

It doesn’t take up time!

And to add to the fact that they are not that common, they also don’t take up much time. The median time taken for all incidents combined (both checks and reviews) is 20 seconds. This is because most ‘checks’ take place while during ‘normal’ play and/or stoppages. If you witness a VAR indicident taking more than a minute then you have been unlucky. Compare that to a substitution, which typically takes over two minutes. Should we stop substitutions because they disrupt the flow of play?!

VAR in Football was trialled in the FA and Carabao Cups last season, and a number of European leagues as well. However, it was voted not to be included in the Premier League in 2018/19 season by its member clubs.

How would it have impacted on the Premier League so far?

There would have only been a couple of ‘clear and obvious’ changes that VAR would have impacted upon already. One clear example is Willy Boly’s opener for Wolves against Man City would have been ruled out for handball. That would have given Man City a win and left them with a 100% record and top of the league. The fact that it hasn’t really been needed thus far could be an argument for or against. If it isn’t needed then why have it? On the other hand, if it is available but isn’t used then a) it isn’t frequently disrupting the flow of the game and b) it could be very handy for those critical moments.

AccaDoo are landing on the side of bringing VAR into as many leagues as possible, including the Premier League. It looks like VAR in Football is here to stay, like it or not. If the statistics continue to support the technology and the slickness continues to improve, it will only be a matter of time before it is in the Premier League for good.

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