The introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology in football has undoubtedly had a massive impact on the sport.
VAR tech has been in operation in the Premier League since the start of the 2019/20 season, and it is fair to say it has met with a mixed response.
Many people have criticised VAR, while punters using free betting tips to place wagers have often been left frustrated over its impact on results.
Confusion over what decisions should be reviewed and issues with the lack of communication during the VAR process are amongst the problems the system has encountered.
However, the Premier League remains committed to using VAR to ensure accuracy in the sport, so read on as we take a look at how it works.
What is VAR?
Every Premier League fixture has a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) – a qualified referee who watches the match via television screens and can view slow-motion replays.
VAR is in place to advise the on-field referee if any mistakes are made which can have a significant impact on the outcome of matches.
During the season before VAR was introduced, 82 per cent of critical decisions in games were correct, but this rose to 94 per cent with the use of VAR last term.
More than 2,400 incidents were checked during the 2019/20 campaign, with 109 on-field decisions overturned by the VAR.
Where is VAR based?
The VAR watches the action from a hub at Stockley Park in London, with an Assistant VAR (AVAR) and a Replay Operator (RO) completing the team.
The system allows the VAR to access to all pitch-facing broadcast cameras at Premier League stadiums, some featuring slow-motion replays.
There are also additional cameras dedicated to monitoring offsides, with the option for computer-generated lines projected on to the pitch to help make a decision.
The system is used only for ‘clear and obvious errors’ or ‘serious missed incidents’ in four match-changing situations – goals, penalty decisions, direct red-card incidents and mistaken identity.
How does it work?
The referee can inform the VAR that a decision should be reviewed or the VAR identifies a ‘clear and obvious error’ in one of the situations detailed above communicates this to the referee.
At the next stoppage of play the referee holds up the restart, explains their decision to the VAR and the waits for a decision to be reached.
The VAR initially reviews the footage utilising real-time footage, before using slow-motion replays to formulate their final decision.
If the VAR disagrees with the referee’s original determination of the incident, that information is shared with the official and an overturn is recommended.
What is the Referee Review Area (RRA)?
The Referee Review Area (RRA) gives referees the option to look at incidents via a screen located at the side of the pitch.
One of the major criticisms of the VAR system during the 2019/20 season was the reluctance of on-field officials to use the technology available to them.
However, that was addressed ahead of the current campaign, with shareholders agreeing to the increased use of the RRA.
This is now used by the referee to make subjective decisions in three key areas – goals, red cards and penalty kicks. This decision is always final.
How are fans kept informed?
This element has been a significant bugbear for fans and pundits alike, with the VAR system failing to communicate in any depth what is happening.
The referee points to their ear to indicate that a review is occurring and gestures with a ‘TV signal’ when the process is completed, before communicating the final decision.
Graphics are displayed on big screens around the stadium, and information can be relayed over the PA system.TV viewers also see a series of graphics as well as replays of the incident.
However, there is no verbal communication from either the referee or the VAR, which often leaves everyone unsure about what is happening.
Have Man United been impacted by VAR?
United have been involved in numerous VAR decisions since it was first introduced, and many of them have inevitably been controversial.
One of the most recent examples was in their first home league match of the season, where Crystal Palace were awarded a hugely contentious penalty.
Palace hit United on the counter attack, but the threat was snuffed out by Victor Lindelof. However, as the ball struck his hand outside of his ‘natural silhouette’, a penalty was awarded.
Pundits blasted the decision as the defender had no chance to move his hand out of the way, and Palace scored the penalty at the second time of asking after the VAR controversially deemed David De Gea to have moved off his line as he saved the initial spot-kick.