VAR: Everything that you need to know

For ages the footballing world has been debating whether or not video assistant referees should be brought into the game. It has been a topic of much controversy and last week VAR made its debut in English football in the Brighton vs Crystal Palace FA Cup third round game at the AMEX stadium. Below is everything that you need to know about this technology which could change the game we know and love, for the better.


When will it be used?


There are 4 instances within a game where VAR can be used and they are:

  • Goals


  • Penalties


  • Straight reds


  • Cases of mistaken identity


When will it not be used?


  • Second yellow cards


  • Referees are not able to be unsure on a decision and say “ I want to look at a replay”, they have to make a decision and if its wrong it will be overturned by the VAR


How will we know when it is being used?


There are 3 ways in which us watching at home or sitting in the stadium will know it is being used:


  1. A word in the earpiece:


This was demonstrated in the Brighton v Palace game where referee Andre Marriner and the Video Assistant referee Neil Swarbrick spoke via the earpiece over 11 decisions throughout the match, one of which was Glen Murray’s winner. None of the decisions made were wrong and therefore there was no need to stop the game to look at a review.

The Chief of referees, Mike Riley, has said that this method may cause confusion amongst fans in the stadium as they will struggle to understand what is going on. He has said that they will review how to communicate what is going on to ensure that all fans are exactly clear on the situation.

Martin Atkinson also used the earpiece in the Carabao Cup semi-final 1st leg between Chelsea and Arsenal, a match which ended 0-0 at Stamford Bridge. Atkinson asked the video assistant referee, Neil Swarbrick, about two potential red cards and two potential penalty decisions. He was satisfied with the information given to him by the VAR and therefore did not overturn his decision.


  1. VAR decides:

This process has not happened yet at the trial games but hen an actual video review is needed, the ref will “draw a rectangle with his arms”, signaling the use of the VAR.

If the decision is clear, for example if a player has scored a goal using his arm, the VAR will inform the referee of this and therefore he will overturn his decision without using a further replay. The referee will then make a “TV screen signal” and change his decision.

Either the referee or the VAR can decide whether or not an incident needs reviewing.

The TV signal that referees have to make
  1. On-field review:

It is similar the situation above, however this is for decisions that are less clear. In these scenarios the VAR will encourage the ref to look at pitch side monitors for an “on the field review”

Following their review, the referee will once again make a “TV screen signal” to communicate the final decision. The fans that are inside the stadium will be unable to see the replays that the ref will see, however fans watching at home will be able to see every single one of the camera angles so it will be clear to see whether or not it is the correct decision.

The pitch side monitors

What has the reaction been from the trials:

Overall managers have been very impressed with the use of VAR in the trial games. Crystal Palace Manager Roy Hodgson praised the officials and the VAR system, despite losing the game. As well as this both Arsene Wenger and Antonio Conte also praised the use of VAR in their semi-final 1st leg draw.


However, VAR did not stop the Crystal Palace players confronting the referee after the game against Brighton. They were clearly unhappy about Glen Murray’s winner which they felt went in off the player’s arm. Players should be aware that they can still receive punishments for questioning a referee or demanding the use of the VAR.

As well as players, managers who strongly appeal for VAR, or try and influence the decision of a referee, will also be sent off.

The Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has publicly made it known that he feels as though the use of VAR will delay the game and he fears that the game is “turning into baseball”


When will VAR be used next?

VAR is being used again in the FA – Cup 3rd round replays between Chelsea and Norwich, as well as Leicester City and Fleetwood Town. As well as this, VAR will be used in every round of the FA Cup depending whether or not the game is televised and whether or not the ground hosting the match is of a premier league side. VAR will also be used again in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea.

Unfortunately, VAR can only be used in Premier League stadiums where there is a direct link back to the Premier League studios. This is due to the fact that this is where the VAR has access to between 12-15 camera angles which includes 4 in each goal.