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A step too VAR?

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Published on 19 June 2018

World Cup fever has cooled over VARS
World Cup fever has cooled over VARS

There were three letters on the lips of supporters following England’s World Cup opener against Tunisia this week – VAR.

It had been hoped the Video Assistant Referee’s role in Russia 2018 would paper over cracks in referees missing specific on-pitch incidents.

But a series of contentious decisions – or lack of decisions – in Volgograd on Monday raised questions among supporters over refereeing inconsistencies and the overall efficiency of VAR.

University of Sunderland academic Dr Paul Davis, a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Sport, argues that we need to manage our expectations when it comes to VAR.

Dr Davis said: “We need to recognise and live with the fact that, although it should increase the chances of just outcomes, VAR doesn't guarantee them.

“The obvious reason it doesn't guarantee them is that the officials need to decide which incidents to review.

“The penalty incident in the England – Tunisia game arguably should have been reviewed and would arguably have resulted in no-penalty. But, again it’s important we realise that a review doesn't guarantee correct judgement.”

VAR will be in use at all times during every World Cup game, with a team of four referees always reviewing incidents in a studio away from the stadium.

They would then consult the on-field referee to tell him whether they deem an incident worthy of a review. Should they do that then the on-field referee then stops the game to view the incident pitch-side before making a decision whether to alter his original decision.

Dr Davis said: “If you look at FIFA’s Decision Process guidelines for this World Cup, then you see that officials need to decide what counts as 'leading up to' a goal or a penalty.

“Since everything that happens in a match is causally related to everything that happens afterwards, then arguably it is all part of the lead-up to a (possible) goal or penalty.

“As long as we are happy to live with its limitations, then it is probably better to have VAR than not. However, there are no guarantees of justice.”


5 facts about VAR

  1. A video assistant referee team supports the match officials during all 64 matches.
  2. The video assistant referee team is located in a centralised video operation room in Moscow.
  3. The video assistant referee team has access to all relevant broadcast cameras and two dedicated offside cameras.
  4. The video assistant referee does not take any decisions; he supports the referee in the decision making process and the final decision can only be taken by the referee.
  5. Football fans will be informed about the review process by broadcasters, commentators and infotainment.