VAR (Video Assistant Referee) was introduced to the world stage, in the 2018 World Cup. Since its inception there has been debate between footballers, managers, officials and fans about whether it is beneficial to football.
VAR was conceived in the early 2010s under the direction of the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB). They tested it in their top league during the 2012-13 season. They then petitioned for laws to be amended for more extensive trials.
VAR is used for four different occasions: ensure no infringement on a goal, correct penalty decisions, to confirm a booking with a red card is fair, and in a case of mistaken identity to ensure the right player gets sanctioned
There are three steps to this process. Either the referee or VAR advises that an incident or decision should be reviewed. This is followed by the VAR review itself, and finally the decision where the referee would be advised by VAR and takes appropriate action.
The American, Australian, German and Italian Leagues were the first to use VAR in 2017. The world got the first major glimpse of VAR being used in football during the 2018 World Cup where it was used 440 times. During the tournament there were different opinions on the new system, comments saying that VAR is “inconsistent” and claiming “VAR makes players lose the focus of the game.” However, the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino said that VAR is “making it [football] more transparent and honest” and that “95% of decisions were already correct. Thanks to VAR we increased it to 99.32%.”
During the Premier League 2018-19 season, VAR was trialled regularly in a ‘non-live environment.’ The system came into full effect in the current 2019-20 season and has already seen controversy with teams like Chelsea F.C. Chelsea’s goal from Zouma being disallowed because of Giroud fouling Norwich’s goalkeeper. When 1 – 0 down at home against Liverpool, the Blues scored, but the goal was disallowed because of an offside. There have been other calls that have caused dispute like Raheem Sterling being offside with his shoulder, and a team was allowed to retake a penalty. One of the most controversial was Son Heung-min being offside by a mere 1.6cm, disallowing a goal.
“It’s here to stay, so it’s frustrating, Chelsea F.C’s Frank Lampard said. It definitely kills the moment.” Lampard isn’t the only person unsettled with the technology. Former Premier League players Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy are against VAR. Shearer said he was willing to give the new system a chance, but doesn’t like the time it takes out of the game and adding that “the technology is not 100% accurate, because the frame can’t tell us when the ball is actually leaving the foot.” Murphy is strongly against VAR to the point he would scrap the concept saying “If you gave me a choice now, I would knock it on the head.”
For now it seems that VAR is here to stay despite the controversy.
By Alfie Whelan