World Cup 2018 –What is VAR and how is it Used?

If you have lived on another planet for years then you might be asking ‘what is VAR?’ Well, VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee. It can be used to check calls that were made so ensure fairness. Maradona says of it, “Technology brings transparency and quality and it provides a positive outcome for teams who decide to attack and take risks.” It is a way of ensuring much fairer football. With the use of VAR technology, off-side decisions can be made more accurately, fouls and hand balls can be checked, as can diving. The history of the World Cup has been plagued with interesting decisions. These decisions have changed the entire outcome of the tournament. With the introduction of VAR, hopefully more of these decisions will be correct.

What is the VAR Team?

The VAR team consists of four assistant referees: the video assistant referee (VAR), as well as his three assistant VARs (AVAR1, AVAR2 and AVAR3). These are made up of top FIFA match officials. In all, the FIFA Referees Committee has picked thirteen referees who will only be acting as Video Assistant Referees during the World Cup 2018.

There were strict criteria when it came to choosing which referees would be Video Assistant Refs. It was mainly based on the referee’s experience as Video Match Officials in National and Confederation competitions. Possible candidates were required to successfully participate in numerous preparatory seminars and FIFA competitions. Here they improved on their VAR skills and knowledge by getting used to the systems.

On top of having thirteen VARS, some of the refs and assistant refs who have been chosen for World Cup 2018 will also have a role as Video Match Officials during the competition. FIFA will make these appointments before the matches.

Replay Operators

There will be four replay operators whose job is to choose and provide the very best camera angles. Two of these will pre-select the camera angles that are most likely whilst the other two will need to provide the final angles that the VAR and AVAR2 have chosen for every incident that needs to be checked and reviewed.

The VAR Roles

VAR

The role of the main VAR is to monitor the main camera on the upper screen. It then checks and reviews incidents on its quad split screen. The VAR is responsible for taking the lead and supervising the whole VAR team. He is also responsible for communication with the ref who is on the field of play.

AVAR1

The role of the AVAR1 is to concentrate on the main camera. It is also used to keep an eye on the live play match if the main VAR is being used to check and review an incident.

AVAR3

The role of the AVAR3 is to focus on the television programme feed. It also helps the VAR to evaluate incidents and ensuring that there is good communication between VAR and AVAR2 – which is located at the offside station.

AVAR2

The role of the AVAR2 is to be an assistant referee at the offside station. He must anticipate and check any possible offside situations in order to speed up the entire VAR check and review process.

VAR –How can it Change the Match?

The main role of the VAR is to check over the match changing incidents of the game. To make sure any decision made by the ref, that could have an impact on the outcome, is completely fair. He watches all situations carefully and makes sure that they all follow protocol.

When a player scores a goal, the VAR will check for any infringements. Referees can use it to make important offside or onside rulings to ensure that they don’t disallow a good goal, or allow a faulty goal.

The second important use for the VAR is when awarding a penalty. It will primarily check that a player has committed a foul, and if he has, it will check whether the player committed the foul inside out outside of the box. This prevents any bad decision, which could potentially change the entire outcome of the game.

A third use would be to check red card decisions. The VAR can oversee the field when the ref can’t see everything. So, if there’s an aggressive elbow or violent conduct that the referee hasn’t seen then the VAR can call it out to the referee who can review the footage and make a decision.

The fourth main reason to use the VAR is to correct cases of mistaken identity. In the past it has been one player who makes a foul, but because of the speed and proximity of the players and the ref, the referee gives the wrong player a red or yellow card. The VAR can check out what happens and therefore ensure that it is the correct player that gets the punishment.

Where is the Video Operation Room? (VOR)

THE VAR team is able to support the on-pitch referee from the centralised VOR. In the World Cup 2018, this room will be found at the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) which is in Moscow. Every relevant camera feed from all of the twelve separate football stadiums will be provided to the Video Operation Room by a fibre optic network. The referee who is presiding over the match at each stadium will then be able to communicate with the VAR team via its highly sophisticated fibre-linked radio system.

What about the Cameras?

In total, the VAR team will be able to access thirty-three broadcast cameras. Of these cameras, eight are in super slow motion and a further four are ultra-slow motion cameras. On top of these, they are able to access two offside cameras. These cameras will only be accessible to the VAR team and nobody else. When it comes to the knockout stages of the competition, FIFA will install an additional two ultra-slow motion cameras – one behind each goal that the VAR team will be able to access.

Communicating with the Ref

If the referee wishes to delay a restart of the match in order to confer with the VAR, then he can do so at any time. If he wishes to do so, he will signal this by putting his hand to his ear. This isn’t, however, an official VAR review.

If he wishes to have an official VAR review then the referee will stop the play and make the official VAR review signal in order to review his decision or change his decision based on the findings. To request a review, the referee draws a large square shape symbol in the air with his hands which is the signal for an official VAR review. Only if the referee makes this signal will an official review take place.

How the VAR Information System Works

In order to make sure that all of the fans watching the game – in the stadium or at home – are kept informed of what is happening, FIFA has created a VAR information system for television broadcasters and commentators. For every match of the tournament, a FIFA member of staff will informs the broadcasters about the various steps of the VAR review process; this will include information on the reason the referee has requested the review as well as the outcome, via a network tablet.

The person who is responsible for operating this network tablet will be in the Video Operating Room. He will be able to have access to the audio from the referee communication system; he will also access the camera angles from the VAR. Officials can also use this VAR information system to make VAR specific graphic templates specifically for the television and the giant screens used in the stadiums.

Five Facts about the VAR

  1. A VAR team will support the match officials in every one of the 64 matches.
  2. The entire VAR team will all be located in a central operations room in Moscow.
  3. All of the VAR team will have access to all broadcast cameras as well as its own dedicated offside cameras.
  4. The VAR won’t make any decisions. He will simply support the referee in the decisions he makes. The final decision is with the referee only.
  5. Television broadcasters and commentators can inform football fans and spectators about the VAR process .

So there you have it. Hopefully this will minimise the dodgy penalty, offside and goal decision that have plagued the game for years. If this was in place, surely the Hand of God would never have been given… who knows. As Nuno Gomez says “With the use of technology, the mistakes will be diminished and there will be more justice in football.” Hear hear! With lots of World Cup bonuses and promotions around, as well as fantastic odds being offered from bookmakers such as 888sport and William Hill, this will also help to ensure that no dodgy ref decisions will affect the outcome of your wager. So, for everyone who has a lot riding on the results, here’s to a fair and just World Cup 2018!