The video assistant referee (VAR) is a football assistant referee who reviews decisions made by the head referee (the person responsible for enforcing the Laws of the Game during the course of a match) with the use of video footage and a headset for communication. In 2018, VARs were written into the Laws of the Game by the International Football Association (the body that determines the Laws of the Game of association football) Board (IFAB) following trials in a number of major competitions.

The Laws of the Game (LOTG) are the codified rules that help define association football. They are the only rules of association football subscribed to by the sport’s governing body FIFA. The laws mention the number of players a team should have, the game length, the size of the field and ball, the type and nature of fouls that referees may penalize, the frequently misinterpreted offside law, and many other laws that define the sport. During a match, it is the task of the referee to interpret and enforce the Laws of the Game.

The standard for overturning the referee’s original decision is that there has been a “clear error”, sometimes expanded to “clear and obvious error”.

The process begins with the video assistant referee(s) and the assistant video assistant referee (AVAR) reviewing the play in question on a bank of monitors in the video operation room (VOR) with the assistance of the replay operator.

Video Assistant referee is a major innovative way to minimize human errors made by the referee during a game. VAR is football’s first use of video technology to reach more correct decisions.

The team (video assistant referee himself (VAR), his assistant (AVAR) and a replay operator) are situated in a video operation room which is essentially a room full of monitors offering different camera angles. The VAR team have the best viewing angles and full access to all 33 cameras in the stadium and communicates with the referee via a special fibre-optic radio.

The VAR has no power to overrule a decision, he can only review a decision by the referee and help him make a but the final decision is made by the referee himself.


There are four (4) critical game-changing situations that can be reviewed by VAR. They include;

  • Goals and whether there was a violation during the buildup
  • Penalty decisions
  • Direct red card decisions (second yellow cards are not reviewable)
  • Mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card

Can VAR also make a mistake?

Here are instances where the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used in the ongoing World cup in Russia and their verdicts according to top football analysts.

👉 Sengal vs Colombia – Senegal denied penalty
VAR: Consulted

Verdict: Correct decision

👉South Korea vs Germany – Kim goal awarded after initial offside call

Verdict: Correct decision

👉 Mexico vs Sweden – No penalty for Hernandez handball

Verdict: Correct decision

👉 Nigeria vs Iceland – Sigurdsson blunders late lifeline

Verdict: Correct decision

👉 Brazil vs Costa Rica – Neymar Jr. dives for a penalty

Verdict: Correct decision

👉 Iran vs Spain – An offside equalizer

Verdict: Correct decision

👉 Iran vs Portugal – Iran awarded penalty

Verdict: Wrong decision (Unintentional handball)

👉 Iran vs Portugal – Christiano Ronaldo awarded penalty

Verdict: Correct decision

👉 Saudi Arabia vs Egypt – Saudi Arabia given a second penalty

Verdict: Wrong decision

👉 England vs Panama – Harry Kane awarded hat-trick

Verdict: Correct decision

👉 Belgium vs Tunisia – Eden Hazard awarded penalty

Verdict: Correct decision

👉 Sweden vs South Korea – VAR-assisted penalty decision

Verdict: Correct decision

👉 Nigeria vs Argentina – Nigeria denied penalty

Verdict: Correct decision (Yes it was poor defending by Rojo, the handball was however not intentional)

Footballing Countries Imbibing the technology

Italian Serie A and the German Bundesliga are already using the VAR technology. While the English premiere league are yet to adopt the technology due to more than half of the clubs voted against its use.

VAR Criticism So Far

  • During the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup Final in Japan, the first trial of the VAR in an international club competition, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane called the system a source of confusion.
  • The use of video technology at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup was criticized after several contentious moments involving VAR at the tournament. It was accused of “creating as much confusion as clarity”.
  • In a Primeira Liga game between Boavista and Aves in February 2018, an Aves goal that many felt was offside was allowed, after it was discovered that a Boavista supporter’s flag had been obscuring the VAR camera. With no VAR evidence available, the referee was required to let the goal stand.
  • In a Bundesliga match between Mainz and Freiburg in April 2018, players were instructed to return to the pitch, having left for half time, after VAR determined that a penalty was due.[38][39]
  • In the 2018 A-League Grand Final between Newcastle Jets FC and Melbourne Victory FC, VAR failed to overturn a Melbourne Victory goal due to an offside. It was later revealed that the VAR software suffered a technical malfunction which prevented the assistant referee to view the replay. Melbourne went on to win the game 1–0, as the offside goal became the only goal scored in the match.
  • In the Group stage of 2018’s world cup between Nigeria and Argentina, VAR denied the Nigerian team a penalty shot when the referee, Cuneyt Cakir, consulted it for the verdict after the Argentinian player got hit by the ball with his hand in the penalty area. The referee acknowledged that the ball hit the Argentinian player’s hand, but did not know why it did not count as a penalty kick.

References: Wikipedia, FIFA ✍

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