Making Soccer "VAR" ⚽

Alex Grimm / FIFA / Getty Images

Alex Grimm / FIFA / Getty Images

What is VAR?

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) took the soccer world by storm last summer when it debuted at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Designed by the Royal Netherlands Football Association, VAR is an in-game video replay service meant to correct “clear and obvious errors” made by referees. Referees can use VAR to watch replays when making decisions.

Controversy strikes

Some believe that VAR removes important elements, such as interpretation and emotion, from the game. During Wednesday’s Champions League matchups (Manchester United vs. Paris Saint Germain, and FC Porto vs A.S. Roma) VAR played an integral role in controversial decisions that eventually eliminated Paris and Roma. So, is VAR good, bad, or somewhere in-between?


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Those who believe VAR is good cite that the fact that people in the past cried foul on refereeing decisions, particularly for decisions that are open to interpretation, such as handballs (the cause for one of the penalties in Wednesday’s games). They also focus on the fact that games still contain many controllable factors beyond VAR decisions. 


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Those who believe VAR is bad also reference the fact that refs make bad calls, and still do so when consulting VAR (possibly even to a worse degree), since it’s a ref’s final interpretation of a VAR replay that determines a call on the field. They also claim that the many-minute stops caused by VAR reviews disrupt a game’s flow.  

How do you call it?

While it’s true that VAR can clarify potential refereeing mistakes, it’s also true that there’s an inherent problem if the same referee uses VAR to interpret the video of their own potential mistake. Our call? VAR might benefit from tweeks (such as third-party interpreters), but VAR will help in the long-run, since it already makes soccer more fair.

And you thought Russia only meddled in elections!



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