There has been a great deal of talk in recent weeks about VARs. I think the first thing to remember is that VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee, not Video Assisted Referee.
The VAR is situated away from the field of play with four video screens and an assistant, the VARA. The Laws of the Game however still say, ‘The decision of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored, and the result of the match, is final’.
In the eyes of the Laws, the VAR is the same as the on field assistant referees running the line. They are all there to help the referee make the right decisions. The difference is that if the VAR feels a clear and obvious error has been spotted, the incident can be reviewed before calling the attention of the referee.
There is a television programme in America where they run through the week’s situations where the VAR has suggested that the referee has a look at the monitor.
Viewers can also hear what the VAR says to the referee, about the offence that he feels may have been committed. It goes something like, “Recommend a view for a possible foul, (offside or whatever it may be). The referee then looks at the monitor before making the decision.
This seems to be exactly what was intended when VARs were introduced. The radio message from the VAR is really the same as an on field assistant referees raising their flag, which is saying to the referee.
I think there was a player offside or perhaps ‘I think a player over here has just fouled an opponent’. It’s then up to the referee to make the decision. When VAR was introduced, Premier League referees decided not to bother to look at the monitor until rebuked by FIFA.
Today we don’t know if VARs in the Premier League today use the same terminology of ‘recommend’ and ‘possible’ as their American colleagues do.
Keith Hackett, former head of the PGMOL referees before retiring, said some while ago that he thought referees in the Premier League were often being bullied by VARs into making wrong decisions.
Whether that’s true, I don’t know of course, but if last week’s newspapers correctly reported the new ruling sent to VARs, it would seem to suggest that there might be something in it.
The VAR, it says, is told to check with the VAR Assistant, before communicating the decision to the referee. Whereas the VAR procedures say the referee is the only person who can make the final decision.