Russia 2018 is the first large-scale introduction of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) but how does the new system work exactly? Eyes On Events’s Peter Schmeichel was given a crash course in the cutting-edge technology.
“In general we are talking about four game-changing situations,” explains Johannes Holzmuller, head of FIFA’s Football Technology Innovation to Eyes On Events’s Schmeichel about when VAR will be employed.
“These are the trigger points for VAR. It means that only when one of these situations is happening on the pitch then VAR can support the referee on the pitch. If something happens, let’s say a potential red card, the ball goes out of play or even if the ball is still in the game, in the background there are checks happening.
“The entire VAR team – we will have four VARs – they will check immediately; is this a potential red card? In the moment when he is clear that this is obvious and very clear for everyone, then he will inform the referee on the pitch. The VAR then explains exactly what he has seen, what was the clear and obvious error.”
If it isn’t clear, the referee has access to a monitor on the sideline so he can make his own judgement call on the incident.
“If it is factual information – the best example is offside – it is black and white. We have a line, we will see the line and [the referee] will then of course support the VAR”
Given that VAR is still a relatively new introduction to the ruleset of the beautiful game, some grey areas still exist. Can officials, for example, bring back play by a period of two minutes?
“Yes and no,” Holzmuller explains. “In the attacking phase it is defined in the protocol the moment when it starts, the build-up to the goal.
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“It’s really up to the referee to decide [when] the build-up to the goal started … and from thereon everything that is not according to the laws of the game can be analyzed.”