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Video assistant referee

Video assistant referee

The video assistant referee (VAR) is a match official in association football who reviews decisions made by the referee.

The video assistant referee (VAR) is a match official in association football who reviews decisions made by the referee.

Following extensive trialling in a number of major competitions, VAR was 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.


There are four categories of decisions that can be reviewed:

Goal/no goal – attacking team commits an offence, ball out of play, ball entering goal, offside, handball, offences and encroachment during penalty kicks.

Penalty/no penalty – attacking team commits an offence, ball out of play, location of offence, incorrect awarding, offence not penalised.

Direct red card – denial of obvious goal-scoring opportunity, serious foul play, violent conduct/biting/spitting, using offensive/insulting/abusive language or gestures. All straight red cards are subject to review.

Mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card.


The VAR team, stationed in the video operation room (VOR) at Stockley Park in London, automatically checks every on-field referee decision falling under the four reviewable categories. If the VAR does not identify any mistake during the check, this is communicated to the referee. This is called a "silent check" and requires no further action, usually not causing any delay to the game. At other times, a VAR check may cause the game to be delayed while the VAR ascertains whether or not a possible mistake has occurred. The referee may delay the restart of play for this to occur, and indicates an ongoing check by pointing to their ear.

Where the VAR does identify a possible clear and obvious error, there are three possible scenarios:

Decision overturned on advice of VAR

On-field review (OFR) recommended

Referee chooses to ignore VAR advice

A decision can generally be overturned without an OFR where it relates to a factual matter. For example, offside decisions or whether a foul occurred inside or outside the penalty area can be determined by the VAR to the referee without a review. An OFR is generally recommended where there is a subjective decision to make, such as whether a foul was committed in the first place or whether a red card is warranted for a certain offence. In all cases, the final decision rests with the referee, and they can choose to ignore the advice of the VAR altogether.

On-field review (OFR)

An OFR can only be conducted on the recommendation of the VAR. This ensures that the referee always makes an on-field ruling and does not rely on OFRs for every close decision. An OFR can be conducted when the ball is out of play, or where the referee stops play for the express purpose of conducting one.

The referee signals an OFR by making the outline of a rectangle, indicating a video screen. The OFR takes place in a designated referee review area (RRA), adjacent to the field of play and in public view to ensure transparency. Slow motion replays are only used to establish point of contact for physical offences and handball, while full-speed replays are shown to determine the intensity of an offence or whether a handball occurred in the first place. During an OFR, the VAR transmits several video replays from different camera angles to allow the referee to make their decision.

Once an OFR is completed, the referee makes the TV signal again, before indicating the decision made. If the ball was out of play, it restarts with either the original decision or the new decision if the on-field one was changed. If play was stopped to conduct an OFR and the decision was not changed, a dropped ball occurs.


A number of offences relating to the VAR process are codified within the Laws of the Game. Both players and team officials excessively making the TV signal are cautioned. Any player or team official entering the RRA are also cautioned. Finally, entering the VOR will cause a player or team official to be sent off.

Assistant video assistant referee

The assistant video assistant referee (AVAR) is a current or former referee appointed to assist the VAR in the video operation room. The responsibilities of the AVAR include watching the live action on the field while the VAR is undertaking a "check" or a "review", to keep a record of reviewable incidents, and to communicate the outcome of a review to broadcasters.

2018 FIFA World Cup

FIFA officially approved the use of VAR for the 2018 FIFA World Cup during the FIFA Council meeting on 16 March 2018 in Bogotá.This tournament became the first competition to use VAR in full (at all matches and in all venues).

The 2018 World Cup marked the system's World Cup debut. A total of 335 incidents were checked by the VAR over the course of the group stage, averaging seven per match, and fourteen calls made by referees were changed or overruled after being reviewed by the VAR. According to FIFA, the VAR system had a success rate of 99.3 percent, up from the 95 percent of correct calls by referees without VAR. The first VAR decision at the World Cup came on 16 June 2018 in a group stage match between France and Australia, where referee Andres Cunha awarded a penalty to France after consulting with the VAR. In the final, referee Néstor Pitana used the VAR to review a defensive foul for handling in the penalty area, awarding France a penalty, which gave them a 2–1 lead over Croatia. The final eventually ended with France prevailing 4–2.

The use of VAR has been credited with assisting the 2018 edition's status as the cleanest World Cup since 1986, after no red cards were issued in the opening 11 games and only four players were sent off in the entire tournament which was the fewest since 1978. 22 goals were scored from 29 awarded penalty kicks, beating the previous record of 17 penalty kick goals set in the 1998 tournament; the dramatic increase in the number of penalties awarded at the 2018 World Cup has been attributed to VAR catching fouls which would otherwise have remained unpunished. IFAB technical director and former Premier League referee David Elleray stated a belief that the presence of VAR meant that players would know that they would not be able to get away with anything under the new system.


Further reading


Documentaries, videos and podcasts


Video Assistant Referee (VAR)

October 21, 2019

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