Referee Ghead Grisha from Egypt admonishes England’s Jordan Henderson during a group match at the FIFA World Cup.

Video Assistant Referee at FIFA WC: How Does it Work?

This year’s FIFA World Cup has brought in a new dimension in the refereeing department – technology. For the first time in the tournament’s history, on-field referees are being supported by personnel outside the football field.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has caused quite a stir in the football world. While the system has successfully overturned many decisions, it has also produced some concerns for various teams.

The VAR room.
The VAR room.

How Does VAR Work?

One of 13 FIFA qualified referees, and three assistants, will monitor each of the 64 matches at the World Cup from an operations room in Moscow.

They will have access to the footage from 33 broadcast cameras, as well as two cameras dedicated to aiding offside decisions. Eight of the cameras will provide "super slow-motion" and four "ultra slow-motion" pictures.

Another dedicated camera will be installed behind each goal for the matches in the knockout stages of the tournament.

The video referee speaks to the on-field referee through an ear piece if he wants a decision reviewed during a match. And the on-field referee can also ask for a review if he is unsure about his decision.

However, only certain decisions can be reviewed.

The on-field review will take place in the following circumstances:

  • When a goal has been scored, in the case of a foul committed by an attacking player or for offside interference.
  • On penalty decisions, for a foul leading up to penalty or a foul by an attacking player.
  • All direct red card incidents.

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The referee will act on VAR advice in the following circumstances:

  • When a goal has been scored, to decide if a player was in an offside position leading up to the goal or if the ball had gone out of play leading up to the goal.
  • On penalty decisions, to decide whether a foul was committed inside or outside the penalty area, if the ball had gone out of play leading up to penalty or if a player was in an offside position leading up to penalty.
  • All cases of mistaken identity.
Spain’s Diego Costa celebrates his side’s equalizing goal against Portugal.
Spain’s Diego Costa celebrates his side’s equalizing goal against Portugal.

Major Incidents

The Video Assistant Referee has helped in many occasions for a fair outcome in the World Cup so far.

Diego Costa's equaliser for Spain against Portugal was the first time a World Cup goal was awarded after a review from the video assistant referee (VAR). The striker's goal was allowed to stand despite a collision with defender Pepe. Costa ran into the Portuguese centre back in the build-up to his equaliser in the 24th minute to cancel out Cristiano Ronaldo's fourth minute penalty. Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi gave the goal after consulting the VAR team.

The Morocco players appealed for a free-kick during the match against Portugal when Morocco’s Nordin Amrabat and Portugal’s Raphael Guerreiro got into a scuffle in the penalty area. However, Guerreiro showed marks on his stomach, implying that he had got them from Nordin Amrabat’s boot.

The Video Assistant Review confirmed that both the players had caught each other’s shirts, therefore there was no penalty given.

During the match between Peru and France, the referee was going to give a yellow card to the wrong player. VAR spoke to the on-field referee and ensured that the right player Pedro Aquino is given the yellow card.

Some Falters

While the match between Morocco and Portugal, defender Pepe fell on the ground, when Morocco’s captain Medhi Benatia tapped his shoulder to get his attention. Both were away from the ball. VAR should have picked it up and punished Pepe for acting.

During the match between England and Tunisia, Harry Kane was put down to the ground many times by Tunisian players when corners were being taken. The video referee should have instructed the on-field referee to award at least one penalty.

File photo of Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz. 
File photo of Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz. 

Who’s Saying What About VAR

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz criticised the video assistant referee (VAR) system and said it has left many fans sitting in the stands scratching their heads about what was going on. Since the fans cannot see what the VAR is analysing while making a decision.

Football belongs to the people, that cannot change. This is the people’s game. It is crucial and fundamental that a group of intellectual people are deciding behind the scenes without anybody understanding what is going on. This is not good for the prestige of the game. The game must be clear, it needs to be obvious. People sitting in the stands need to know what the rules are. Who is refereeing the game? We need to know.
Carlos Queiroz to Reuters

While Peru’s coach Ricardo Gareca said that human error is one of football's charms and that the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system was a useful solution but not the perfect one.

Mistakes will always occur. That’s one of football’s attractions. It is (my) private perspective. Football is inextricably linked with mistakes and I don’t think this (VAR system) is going to be the perfect solution. It is an add on, it can be helpful.
Ricardo Gareca to Reuters

Also Read: Messi, Blunders, Selection: What’s Wrong With Argentina This WC?

(With inputs from Reuters)

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