2018 FIFA World Cup Final is only 7 days to go. The fever is getting hotter than ever. As a big fan of the game, you may have noticed that FIFA has adopted Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for the first time.
VAR is a video assistance technology that is used to reach more accurate decisions and remove ambiguities when necessary, during the match. According to FIFA referee committee chairman Pierluigi Collina, referees called 95% of decisions correctly in the first 48 games at the 2018 Russia World Cup. With the help of VAR, it is improved to 99.3%.
How VAR Works
13 referees were chosen to form a VAR team. The team has access to 33 broadcast cameras including 8 super slow-motion and 4 ultra slow-motion cameras, as well as two dedicated offside cameras in a stadium. It supports the referee from a centralized video operation room (VOR), located in the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in Moscow. All relevant camera feeds from the 12 stadiums are provided to the VOR through a fibre optic network. The referee on the field at each stadium talks to the VAR team via a sophisticated fibre-linked radio system.
The VAR team does not take any decisions. It only supports the decision-making process of the referee in four game-changing situations, which are:
- Goals and offences leading up to a goal
- Penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty
- Direct red card incidents only
- Mistaken identity
Throughout a match, the VAR constantly checks for clear and obvious errors related to these four match-changing situations. The VAR team communicates with the referee only for clear and obvious mistakes or serious missed incidents. The on-field referee can either choose to accept VAR information, or review the video – that’s when you see them running over to a monitor.
The VAR system has already been used in the World Cup group stage to correct and clarify decisions. There were concerns about slower games and pedantic rulings on minor fouls since it is the first time FIFA to adopt the system. It turns out that VAR was used less than seven times per match, and the average time lost due to the usage of VAR was less than 90 seconds in a game.
There were also controversial incidents where VAR has failed to rectify a decision from the referee, such as the clash between Costa and Pepe before the Spain goal. But since then it has been fine-tuned and that stat stands: correct decisions are increased by 4.3% to 99.3% using VAR. It is pretty close to perfection.
In 335 incidences analyzed by VAR, 17 reviews were made and 14 decisions changed as a result. There is no doubt that the technology has made an impact on the World Cup. At this moment, VAR is still fairly new to a football game. Let’s keep an eye on it and see if it will open up a new era of football that relied on technology.