VAR, assistant video referee, has been around for several years. Now it's the Premier League's turn, with other top European leagues to follow in adopting video reviews.
After we saw last year's FIFA World Cup in Russia and on other occasions like some games in last year's Cup and Champions League in England, it has also been used during this year's FIFA World Cup in France.
The Premier League is adapting it a little differently than we've seen before.
What is VAR and what does it mean?
Video assistant referee supports the work on the field, the referee and his assistants. They can review incidents in a matter of seconds while not only are they watching the game, but they also have access to multiple replays and from multiple angles. They are not on the ground.
The intention of the VAR is to sort out the question of “was the decision clearly not in order?” on four kinds of key decisions.
- Purpose or non-purpose of the decision (crimes leading to the purpose)
- Fine or no fine decisions
- Direct red card decisions (not a second yellow card) are a bit different for the Premier League, see below
- Mistaken identification
VAR officials will only communicate with those on the field to play if there are "clear and obvious errors" (that phrase again) or "serious missed incidents" on the four fronts. Only on the field the referee can stop the game.
From the point of view of the referee on the field, if they feel that they have to review something, then they make a clear sign to indicate the comment (as if they are pulling with the screen with their fingers) and they can review the footage in the field and communicate with the var.
To do this, they need to go to the referee's comment area (RRA), which is a dedicated area with a monitor towards the field. Like broadcasters, Wars have access to a number of cameras. At the World Championships they included additional offside cameras only available to the VAR team.
At this year's Women's World Cup, VAR was also used to check that goalkeepers remained on the line during the penalty. This will not be tested in the Premier League.
How will it apply in the Premier League?
The Premier League says "there will be a high bar for VAR intervention on subjective decisions to keep the pace and intensity of matches going."
Like the World Cup, the VAR will constantly check in the background - even when they don't seem to be active, they will be active. The Premier League wants there to be as little VAR involvement as possible.
The Premier League also clarified that the "clear and obvious" rule is that "actual decisions, such as offside or if a foul was committed in or outside the penalty area, will not be subject to a clear and obvious error test".
Red card VAR rules are different for the Premier League than they were for the World Cups. As well as paying the wrong red cards, Premier League Wars will be able to view missed red cards - incidents such as elbows that were simply missed on the referee's field. This will certainly lead to some controversy regarding incidents that have slipped into the past.
The mistaken identity part of the FIFA VAR rules will also apply to yellow cards (if the player was wrong, he received a yellow card).
For the purposes that they will tell the referees on the field not to start playing if there is a problem like an offside or roll foul or if the ball is out of play. They will check all goals and offsides will judge the phase of the game that led to the goal. It will again and again correct obvious and obvious (this phrase) errors.
The referee review area has been used in the last two World Cups, but the Premier League says the area will be used sparingly and that "the referee will always make the final decision on the field".
In stadiums, the VAR decision will be shown on a big screen and they will see text telling what the VAR is now, looking at while the check is in progress. For the canceled decisions, the final video will also be shown, although presumably it will not take place on the ground like Old Trafford, where there is no big screen.
How does VAR happen?
Coming as in 2012, the technology was to be removed from football. That year's decision to allow the technology line (thanks in large part to the reaction to Frank Lampard's phantom 2010 World Cup goal at Bloemfontein) had seen before at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and in the Premier League, but there was an even bigger goal - irradicate bad decisions where there was a "clear and obvious mistake".
Rules in football move slowly. They are governed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) - not even FIFA, the world's governing body. The IFAB is an independent body that resists unnecessary change and keeps the ball off the Yo-Yo rule-making seen in some other sports.
But in 2016, the IFAB decided to allow experimentation with Var looking for "obvious bugs in game-changing situations", and subsequently approved it for use. It has been used in the 2018 and 2019 World Cups, Nations League and FA Cup in England.
In terms of the Premier League, the clubs held a vote in November 2018 to decide whether to introduce it this season. The decision was unanimous.
Problems so far with VAR - does it work?
The intention of the VAR was not to have long stoppages in play, but sometimes that didn't work out.
Breaks of a few minutes were seen at last year's World Championships. So FIFA showed replays on the big screen last year at the World Cup to remove the confusion (again it will be in the Premier League). The message is clear: VAR isn't perfect, but it's better than nothing.
The idea of Ware is not like in rugby, to hand things over to the top for a decision. Instead, the intention of the VAR - and the instructions for referees at the World Championships - is to make a decision and let the VAR figure it out later. For close offside calls in FIFA tournaments, the assistant referees are told to keep their flags down and let the VAR decide. We don't quite know if it will
Another object of criticism is that targets can be noted for 30 seconds, which everyone understands that the target is being checked in order to be subsequently eliminated.
We've also seen a bunch of controversial handball penalties because "intention" doesn't count - it's just if the hand is hit in an unnatural position. We saw this happen during the Paris Saint Germain vs Manchester United game in the Champions League earlier this year. Premier League head refereeing Mike Riley suggested that Premier League Wars shouldn't be as strict.
FIFA head of refereeing Massimo Buzacca sounded a caution about Vara last year; that it's not perfect, but it's better than nothing. "We're looking to have incredible uniformity and consistency, but I don't think the technology solves the problem 100 percent," he said during the briefing.
“Before the video, you always have a person who does the translation. It's not [like] goal-line technology with vibration [on a wrist card]. It's an interpretation."
How the VAR command works
For the Premier League, the VAR team will be based at the Premier League Broadcast Center in Stockley Park, West London, in a dedicated 'VAR Centre'.
International Tournament Wars based on HQ broadcast to the entire tournament, known as the International Broadcasting Center (IBC container), such as a large facility in Paris for this year's Women's World Cup. At this tournament there were 15 wars to participate in the tournament and 10 of them worked as wars or referees at last year's World Cup in Russia.
We've already visited a couple of MBC halls and massive ones, with hosted broadcasters all changing apartments, offices and the ability to take pictures from all sources and studios. Basically, for each of the stadiums go through the IBC fiber, which is then received by each transmitter, mixed with Studio segments and other frames and so on.
The main var consists of a main display, as well as a secondary one where they can see four alternate views. They also communicate directly with the referee, again via fiber lines.
Then there are two additional Wars. One keeps the VAR up-to-date with a live game if an incident is being considered (they are known as AVAR1).
The other one (AVAR2) is dedicated to offside decisions - they can see each goalie on their screens. They anticipate if there may be issues with the game and checks ahead to expedite the review process. Offside displays are equipped with a 3D line system that is superimposed using software. You can see what works in this video.
A special person in Thief uses the touch screen to show the correct graphics are being created for the screens in the stadium.