The World Cup announced in March that for the first time in history, video assistant referees (VAR) will be used at the World Cup this summer.

Here we answer some of the important questions ahead of Thursday’s opening game.

Why is VAR being introduced?

Plain and simply, FIFA wants to make football more transparent and fairer. Upon its announcement Fifa president Gianni Infantino said: “This has been adopted and approved and we are extremely happy with that decision. It will help to have a more transparent and fairer sport which is what we want because the referee has his work cut out for him already and sometimes he can make mistakes – like any human being – and if we can help him to correct some of these mistakes, let’s do so.”

Where will the VAR be located?

In Moscow where they will have access to thrity-three camera angles, including eight in super slow motion and four in ultra slow motion. For integrity/transparency/credibility, the VAR, assisted by a replay operator (RO), will have independent access to, and replay control of, all broadcast ‘feeds’

The VAR and their assistant will watch a live feed of the game on a main camera but will also have access to a split screen where they can check and review incidents. Another assistant will be on offside watch, whilst the third will be an intermediary between the other three officials.

Where can the VAR intervene?

The VAR will automatically ‘check’ every situation/decision to see if a potential clear error has been made in a match-changing situation or if a serious incident/offence has been missed.

Video assistance is only for key match-changing situations (goals, penalty incidents and direct red cards and mistaken identity) and serious missed incidents.

  • Goals, including ‘missed’ attacking offences in the build-up
  • Penalties awarded and not awarded, including ‘missed’ attacking offences in the build-up
  • Direct red cards
  • Cases of mistaken identity where the wrong player is shown a red or yellow card

It has also recently been announced that red cards can be given retrospectively by VAR decision meaning a referee could send off a player even if play has restarted after the incident occurred. Such decisions are likely to be made for the off-the-ball incidents that may be missed by the referees on the pitch and only in the case of serious red card offences.

Read more | Take a look back through every key moment of the VAR so far….

Who can call for a review?

As mentioned VAR’s will check every incident, if no review is needed then communication with the referee is not necessary – this is a ‘silent check’.

If a ‘check’ indicates that an incident should be reviewed, the referee should be informed immediately. In addition, if the referee suspects that a major error may have occurred, or something serious has been missed, a review can be requested.

VAR’s and other match officials, apart from the referee, can not initiate a review, they can only recommend.

What if the referee wants a review but one team are on the attack?

If the referee wants a review when play has not stopped, play should be halted as soon as it is in a ‘neutral’ area i.e. when neither team has a good attacking possibility.

How will I know a review is taking place?

The referee must clearly indicate that the review process has been initiated by visually showing the outline of a TV screen, and the play can not restart until the end of the review.

Fifa have also developed a VAR information system that relays the steps of the review process taking place to fans and those in the media. An allocated Fifa staff member will be responsible for relaying the information via a touch tablet and it will be presented in graphical form on a TV monitor in the studio or commentary box as well as on the big screen.

But replays of incidents will not be shown inside the ground while the referee is making a decision.

What happens at the end of a review?

The referee can either make a decision based only on the information received from the VAR, or review the footage directly before making a final decision. These are mainly for subjective not factual decisions.

How much of an incident can be watched and reviewed?

For red card offences (except DOGSO), only the incident is reviewed. For goals, penalty incidents and DOGSO offences, the referee can review the play as far back as the start of the attacking move which led to the incident and, if relevant, how possession of the ball was gained at the start of that phase of play.

What are the punishments for players trying to influence a referees review?

A player who shows the TV sign will be cautioned.
A player entering the referee review area will be cautioned whilst if one of the coaching staff does do they will  be dismissed.

Who will be the referees on VAR duty in the World Cup?

Have a read of our referee profiles here and find out about who will be on duty as a VAR.


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