Video Assistant Referee (VAR) In Football Explained

Goal Line Technology

It’s the 7th of March, a round of 16 of Europe’s most prestigious title; Champions League. The game is between two powerhouses of Europe with great players. Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain are battling in the second leg of the quarterfinals. The English team Man Utd was trailing by two goals in the first leg and to add salt to the wound PSG scored the third early on in the second leg. It was three goals to Man Utd’s nil but the English team still had some hope.

The Red Devils somehow managed to score two in quick succession and needed one more to make it to the last eight. 90 minutes were almost up and PSG had to just hold on for few extra minutes, but, there was a foul inside the penalty area which the referee didn’t see but VAR came into the fray.

Referee’s decision on the field was against the team from Manchester but after watching the replay on the screens provided near the dugouts, a penalty was awarded and they scored. This stunned Paris as it became the first casualty of the VAR. Manchester United might have been lucky but the right decision was made. Fans all over the world were buzzing some furious and some amazed. Thanks to VAR, the game was won by the deserved. It did manage to crush some dreams but satisfied all the football fans. It was the first time VAR was used in such a crunch situation and it delivered.

What is VAR?

The video assistant referee (VAR) is a match official in association football who reviews decisions made by the head referee with the use of video footage and a headset for communication. Following extensive trialing in a number of major competitions, VARs were first written into the Laws of the Game by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in 2018. Operating under the philosophy of “minimal interference, maximum benefit the VAR system seeks to provide a way for “clear and obvious errors” and “serious missed incidents” to be corrected. (Wikipedia)

VAR is used under certain consequences like:

  • Goal/no goal – attacking team offenses, ball out of play, the ball entering the goal, offenses and encroachment during penalty kicks
  • Penalty/no penalty – attacking team offenses, ball out of play, location of the offense, incorrect awarding, offense not penalized
  • Direct red card – denial of obvious goal-scoring opportunity, serious foul play, violent conduct/biting/spitting, using offensive/insulting/abusive language or gestures
  • Mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card

Sometimes Referee fails to make the correct decision or notice certain things going on in a game, that’s when VAR comes into existence where referee gets to look at a certain foul or situation again to see whether he was right or he has to overturn his decision.

Read about Goal Line Technology here. 

What do people think of VAR?

Opinions about VAR are very mixed, lots of people agree to it while many disagree, stating that using the technology causes long delays in play. Which can disturb the emotion and excitement of football matches for fans watching the game with lots of interest and enthusiasm?


The obvious advantage that flashes to our mind is that the referee would be able to look at the decision he made once again and make sure he is right and not giving away undeserved fouls or penalties and also can overturn his decision if he was wrong.

The Video Assistant Referee will be very useful when the outcome was binary. The VAR will be effective when there’s a crowd inside the penalty box and a foul happens and the referee would not understand, looking into undeserved red card given and taking it back, that’s when VAR comes into action.


When VAR is more likely to create controversy is when the decision comes down to the referee’s opinion of an incident. Was a handball done deliberately, or was it accidental? A referee watching it of the incident due to camera angles, and right things might overturn a huge decision which may be game changing and the decision might turn the tables and change the whole context of the game.

“It takes the excitement out of football; players don’t hug each other after scoring a goal anymore, instead they look straight towards the referee. It’s removing the adrenaline and my enjoyment of football,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi explained about his problems and why he is against the technology.

England manager Gareth Southgate did not believe that a clear and obvious error had been made in the first place: “I think in this instance my only observation would be that I don’t think it is clear and obvious.”

Goal-line technology comes in to play here as well. How many balls have crossed the line and whether the goal is given or not (Frank Lampard in 2010 is the best example)

More about technologies used in sports.

According to my opinion, VAR which was a shocker and game-changing technology have changed football obviously making it clearer and foolproof obviously, and the good news for the critics of the system is that technology is only going to get better. With every passing year, the way that Video Assistant Referees can be integrated into the game will improve as time, and who knows maybe there will be another new technology which may have more criticism and may change the game completely


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