VAR approved for use at World Cup

Referee Craig Pawson checking the pitchside screen after speaking to the VAR before giving Liverpool a penalty during the FA Cup match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield in January.
Referee Craig Pawson checking the pitchside screen after speaking to the VAR before giving Liverpool a penalty during the FA Cup match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield in January.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE

ZURICH • Video replays to help referees make key decisions are set to be used at this year's World Cup in Russia after the system was approved by football's rule-making body International Football Association Board (Ifab) yesterday.

Fifa, football's world governing body, had said the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system would be used at the Finals if approved by Ifab, but its European counterpart Uefa has said it will not be deployed in next season's Champions League.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said the final decision on using the system at the June 14-July 15 World Cup will be taken at a meeting of the Fifa Council in Bogota on March 16.

"As of today, the VAR system is part of football," he told reporters.

"We came to the conclusion that VAR is good for football and referees, it brings more fairness to the game. For these reasons, we have decided to approve it."

Critics say VAR has led to confusion in competitions where it has been used, especially for spectators in stadiums who are often unaware that a decision is being reviewed.

The Ifab statement described the move as an "historic step for greater fairness in football".

  • Debatable VAR incidents


    Cameroon's Sebastien Siani was wrongly booked for a reckless high challenge by team-mate Ernest Mabouka on Germany's Emre Can.

    Referee Wilmar Roldan used the VAR but, instead of booking the right player, he added to the injustice by changing Siani's card to red.

    Amid Cameroon protests, he reviewed the incident again, rescinded Siani's sending-off and showed a red card to the correct culprit Mabouka.


    Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored from close range for Dortmund after Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn dropped the ball.

    The referee first awarded Cologne a free kick but, after consulting the VAR, changed his mind and gave the goal. But Cologne said that the referee had blown his whistle before the ball entered the goal, meaning that he could not subsequently award it no matter what the VAR showed.

  • AC MILAN V LAZIO (SERIE A, JAN 28, 2018)

    Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi was left perplexed after Patrick Cutrone's opener for Milan was allowed to stand, even though replays showed the ball came off his arm.


    Tottenham had a routine Erik Lamela goal disallowed when an official watching on the video screen flagged up to match referee Paul Tierney a tiny shirt-pull by Fernando Llorente in the build-up. Yet the VAR should only be used to overturn a "clear and obvious" error.

The change was unanimously approved in a meeting in Zurich even though only six of eight votes were needed.

The football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each had one vote while Fifa, representing all other national federations, had four.

According to Ifab protocols, VAR should be used in only four key cases: goals, penalties, direct red cards and mistaken identity.

A trained referee with access to a video monitor, and in constant communication with the main match official, checks all such decisions. If a "clear and obvious" mistake is spotted, the incident can be reviewed and changed.

The referee, who has access to a pitchside monitor, can also initiate a review himself.

The implementation of the VAR system has been one of Infantino's main projects since he was elected in February 2016.

"I believe that VAR at the World Cup will certainly help us to have a fairer World Cup," he added.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'VAR approved for use at World Cup'. Subscribe