How does VAR work in the exciting world of football?

VAR (virtual assistant referee) technology is arguably one of the most controversial technological additions to the world of football. Imagine placing a bet on for your favorite player to score in a game. Lucky you, your player scores as betted, you scream out for joy only for the referee to consult the VAR and rule off the goal. Ouch!

Yes, we have been there severally on the nasty side of VAR. We also can’t deny that we have been in situations where VAR worked in our favor, with a favorable VAR-aided refereeing decision helping us win fantastic odds on matches from bookmakers on

A curious you must have wondered how the VAR technology works and the specific rules defining its application. These are some of the nuggets this article will expose us to.


What is VAR?

The idea of VAR was born in 2010. The football refereeing community sought objective video-aided assistance in making critical in-match decisions.

The VAR team is a 3-man team that collaboratively reviews incidences in a game and assists the referee’s decisions.

This team spans the principal video assistant referee supported by an assistant, with the third position occupied by a replay operator.

Commonly, the principal video assistant is a trained referee who is yet in active refereeing duties or retired.

The VAR team is stationed in the video operation room, where they review events happening on the pitch from a collection of monitors with various camera angles (for an encompassing evaluation).

For fluidity and minimal interruptions in the game, the VAR only has the authority to review four critical events in a match.

The VAR team can review a penalty decision, red card, the legitimacy of a goal (and fouls occurring before the goal), and if the referee penalized the wrong player with a card.

The VAR team typically plays a supportive or suggestive role. There are no instances where the VAR team can overturn the referee’s decision on the pitch.

How does the VAR technology work?

When the VAR team deems it necessary to review a referee’s decision, there are two channels for prosecuting this.

The VAR team can nudge the referee to review the incidence (and consequently his decision). This is mandatory when the VAR team determines an evident aberration has occurred.

The referee can also call on the VAR team for a review after he has decided on the pitch. Once the main referee on the field is instructed to review an event by the VAR team, he has three choices.

First, he could personally go to the Referee Review Area (RRA), a monitor positioned on the side of the pitch.

There, he can evaluate video replays of the incidences and decide consequently. To enhance the accuracy of the referee’s evaluation, the RRA monitor broadcasts several real-time replays featuring several camera angles so that the referee can definitively ascertain the point of contact or severity of the incidence.

Secondly, instead of leveraging the RRA, the referee can directly adopt the VAR’s recommendation and rule accordingly. Thirdly, he can overturn a decision he made consequent to VAR recommendations. 

Can the referee request VAR?

When a referee is not clear on proceedings on the pitch and lacks adequate information to make critical decisions, he can request VAR input.

The VAR team then studies footage of the specific incidence and passes their recommendation to the referee. As said, when the VAR team – after studying footage – feels the referee is making a clear error, then can independently recommend the referee to check the RRA even if the referee has not requested their input.

Frequent referee visits to the RRA will inevitably disrupt the game’s flow. Therefore, there are decisions like offside or fouls where the referee would directly execute the recommendation of the VAR team without having to go check things out.

When a referee consults with the VAR team, the game is usually put on a brief hold. The referee motions to his ears to indicate he is communicating with the VAR.

After making conclusive decisions based on VAR inputs, the referee commonly makes a TV hand gesture when blowing his whistle and announcing his decision. 

Can an assistant referee on pitch flag an offside without VAR?

This depends on the clarity of the situation. The assistant referee can immediately raise his flag for very clear offside incidences.

But in situations where there is a marginal offside call, the assistant referee will keep his flag down until the completion of play, and the goal-scoring opportunity terminates (either in the offensive player scoring or not).

When a goal is scored, the VAR team will review the passage of play and observe whether there was an offside. The main referee typically waits for a recommendation from the VAR team before blowing his whistle and resuming play.

There is no doubt that VAR is an evolving technology. For now, it is clouded with controversies as it is progressively improved. While it has not been all sunshine and rainbows with the technology, we can’t discard it either. Things can only get better with VAR from here.


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