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26th Jun 2018

How does VAR work at the World Cup? Everything you need to know

VAR can be confusing, but we are here to explain everything

Reuben Pinder

VAR is on everyone’s lips. But what is it? Let us explain…

Video Assistant Referees, commonly referred to as VAR, were trialled in various formats during the 2017/18 football season. Such a big change to the way football is officiated requires a period of adaptation. The decision to use the system in this summer’s World Cup, therefore, sparked a lot of outrage, with people fearing that the tournament would be ruined by the referees’ lack of experience with the system.

Many people will be unfamiliar with the system and how it works. In which contexts is it implemented and which official delegates to whom?

Fear not my friends. We are here to explain all. Join me on this journey of discovering how VAR actually works.

When is it used?

The referee can only defer to VAR in four different circumstances:

  • Goals
  • Penalty decisions
  • Direct red card incidents
  • Mistaken identity

This means that in the case of normal fouls committed outside each penalty area, VAR cannot be called upon. Nor can it be used in situations of two yellow cards leading to a red, or dubious offside calls.

How is it implemented?

After the incident in question occurs, the first step is for the referee to inform his Video Assistant Referee.

VAR - Video Assistant Referee - A team of video operators monitor the action

Then, the referees in the studio review the incident from a range of camera angles and advise the on-pitch on how to proceed referee based on their verdict.

The referee then makes a decision based on the advice he is given and his own understanding of the incident. He is not obliged to follow the VAR’s advice, but it is unlikely that a referee would refer to VAR and not take their advice.

VAR - Video Assistant Referee

The on-pitch referee can also view the incident himself on a screen should he feel it is necessary.

Referees have been instructed to leave contentious offside calls to VAR, allowing play to run and in the case of a goal being scored, defer to VAR to check whether it should stand or not. This will prevent assistant referees from incorrectly flagging a player offside and preventing a legitimate goal.

One of the most highly respected referees Pierluigi Collina has confirmed that the Video Assistant Referees will also be wearing full kit – football socks and everything – while they work remotely from the studio.