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What Is VAR and How Will It Change Soccer?

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Does VAR have the potential to change the way we play and watch soccer?

Does VAR have the potential to change the way we play and watch soccer?

All soccer fans know the deep pain that a wrongful decision from the referee can cause not only to the players on the field, but also to the spectators and even to a whole country, in the case of international tournaments. VAR was proposed as the next generation solution to human error in the field.

VAR stands for video assistant referee. It is basically a support team for the central referee that analyzes through video shots every questionable decision the referee on the field might make. The VAR team includes a video referee, who is a current or former referee himself, an assistant and a replay operator. They have a room full of monitors that display every play of the game.

VAR can only review four decisions:

  1. Goals and the plays that lead directly to the shot
  2. Penalties
  3. Red cards
  4. Mistaken identity in awarding a card.

To review a decision, the central referee has two options: either he requests a VAR review or the VAR team suggest one. Then the central referee can immediately overturn his previous decision, review the incident for himself or stick with his decision.

How Will VAR Affect the Way We Play Soccer?

VAR is a reasonably new development in the evolution of the sport. Its utilization has not yet been included in the Laws of the Game but it has already been tested on the United Soccer League in the United States and the Under-20 World Cup and Confederations Cup. Germany, Italy and Portugal have introduced this system as well on their national leagues and the Libertadores Cup used VAR on the semifinal stage.

However, VAR faced its biggest challenge this month, during the Russia 2018 World Cup. So far, VAR has already granted two penalties in the match between Australia and France. But the biggest controversy has emerged from the occasions in which the referee has decided not to consult with the VAR and the team of experts have not suggested otherwise.

The most clear example happened during the match between Argentina and Iceland, when Argentinian Cristian Pavón was tackled on a clear penalty move that was ignored by the referee. The central judge even gave Pavón a yellow card for complaining about the injustice.

While the VAR is certainly useful as a supporting tool for the referees, it has yet to reach a level of perfection that would take away the responsibility for the decision making from the central referee.

Other fans even think that the introduction of VAR is an offense to the spirit of the game, that includes inherently passions and disappointment with a fair amount of pure luck determining the results. However, the evolution of the game is inevitable and hopefully it will lead to new and exciting challenges for the players.

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