VAR, a new technology made to help referees make fewer mistakes and ultimate make football games “fairer” has been introduced to Premier League ahead of 2019/2020 season. And seeing how we are approaching the seventh round of Premier League, we all already got to see it in action. But what exactly is VAR? How, when and why is it used? How it affected the EPL teams so far and is it even good for the game?
What is VAR?
VAR is short for Video Assistant Referee, which sums up perfectly what it is and what it is its purpose. VAR is a match official in football games, who reviews decisions made by the head referee, by the use of video footage and headset communication. In other words, VAR is the final safety before the final decision, which makes sure the referee calls are correct. The so-called “VAR check” is used to check all clear and obvious errors or “serious missed incidents” in four important situations, which could be described as “match-changing”. Those four situations are:
- Direct Red cards
- Mistaken Identity
In those four situations, VAR will automatically check whether the referee’s decision was correct, often while the play continues. The final decision is then revealed by the on-field referee. What VAR does not review, however, is yellow cards and free kicks from outside the box.
How were the teams affected by it?
As we approach the seventh found Premier League, there have been a handful of VAR decisions already that took place in the English top flight and ultimately changed the course of some games. While some teams gained from the new technology, others ended on the other side of the stick. Now let’s check which teams already got to see VAR in action and how it affected their games.
VAR decisions in Premier League
Southampton probably can be too sad nor mad with the implementation of VAR, seeing how they have “gained” something from it so far into the season.
The Saints currently sit at the 13th place in the league, and they would probably be much lower if there was no VAR.
In their match against Sheffield Utd, Oliver McBurnie’s goal was disallowed for offside in 52nd minute, meaning Southampton won 1:0 and got to walk away with all three points on that day. Less than a week later, when Southampton faced Bournemouth, Josh King’s 25th minute was disallowed due do offside, meaning Southampton once again avoided a goal with the help of VAR. Unfortunately, that was not enough for them to win here, seeing how they ended up losing 1:3.
Leicester also fall into the category of teams who can be glad VAR is in the EPL, seeing how it helped them avoid losing the opening fixture of the EPL against Wolves. On that day, Wolves goal got disallowed due to handball in the build-up to the attack leading to the goal. Should there be no VAR, the Foxes would probably lose that match and would not sit at the respectable third place today. There were two more incidents where VAR was used, and both happened in Leicester’s win over Tottenham last weekend. In 16th minute Leicester’s goal from Perez got disallowed for offside, followed by another VAR decision, which disallowed Aurier’s goal for Tottenham due to Son’s offside position in the build-up.
All things considered, Leicester gained something due to VAR decisions.
We have already mentioned Tottenham and the effect VAR has had on their match against Leicester, yet there was another match where VAR was used, this time in their favour. And that was the notorious match against Manchester City on August 17, when Gabriel Jesus’ 90th-minute goal got disallowed due to Laporte’s handball in the build-up. The match ended 2:2 and should there be no VAR involved, Man City would walk away victorious with a goal in the dying moments of the game.
For Liverpool, it’s safe to say VAR “helped” them win over Chelsea on this weekend, when VAR ruled out Mason mount was offside in the build-up to Cesar Azpilicueta’s 27th-minute goal. Liverpool won that match 2:1.
Norwich City saw the effect of VAR in their round three meeting with Chelsea, where VAR disallowed Kurt Zouma’s 77th-minute goal, due Oliver Giroud’s a foul on the Norwich’s goalkeeper. Unfortunately, Norwich still lost that match 2:3.
West Ham saw a total of three VAR decisions in their six fixture so far. Against Man City, VAR disallowed Gabriel Jesus’s 53rd minute due to an offside position of Sterling in the build-up. In the same match, VAR also ruled Man City must retake their (missed) penalty due to encroachment by Declan Rice. That decision led to Man City converting the penalty on the second try. All things considered, the decision did not matter much, as City won 5:0.
Less than a week later, when West Ham clashed with Brighton, VAR disallowed Brighton’s 27th-minute goal due to offside, which ultimately helped West Ham earn a point in a 1:1 draw.
Other teams affected by VAR, which we have already mentioned above are: Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth, Man City, Sheffield Utd, Wolves and Chelsea. Out of all, it was Chelsea who ended up on the short end of the stick, seeing how they got two goals disallowed so far (against Norwich and Liverpool).
Is VAR good for the game?
Well, it depends on who you ask, seeing how there are more than a few teams who lost valuable points due to VAR decisions. That being said, we have to look at it from a neutral standpoint and ask ourselves again. Is VAR harming the game or will it help make it fairer? And the answer is rather simple. The current accuracy rate (of referee’s decisions) for key game incidents is at 82% percent and the implementation of VAR will without a doubt increase that percentage.
We have to make it clear that VAR will never bring the accuracy to 100%, which, to be fair will never be possible. That being said, VAR is as of today the only tool that can get us as close to 100% as possible. The only thing that could work against VAR is the delay caused by VAR decisions. But even here we have to address the fact that the average delay caused is rather marginal. As of today, Premier League saw an average of eight VAR checks per game, which averages out at 22-second delay for the entire game. And we all know some players are more than capable of delaying the game for much longer with a simple goal kick or throw-in.
So if we draw a line. Is VAR beneficial for the game of football? I think it’s safe to say it is. Fair game is what everyone strives for, and while we must make peace with the fact we will never reach a complete perfection in terms of correct referee calls, VAR will surely help us get as close to that point as possible.