What is VAR, how does it work and when is it used in football? All your questions answered | Football

VAR is now commonplace in football (Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

VAR has been around in football for a number of years now – but it’s many intricacies are still leaving fans with more questions than answers to this very day.

Love it or loath it, VAR is here to stay and the system is in use in every Premier League, Champions League and World Cup game.

With the World Cup now just a matter of weeks away, more VAR controversy and confusion is guaranteed in stadiums across Qatar.

If like many you are still baffled by how the technology works – or you just wand a fresh recap – then here is your one stop guide to everything you need to know.

What does VAR stand for?

Video Assistant Referee.

There is one Video Assistant Referee in each game, a current or former referee, and they are supported by an assistant and a replay operator.

They work as a team, covering all angles of the match from the cameras available to them in the stadium.

The VAR team are based in a room in a different location away from the stadium; for example in the Premier League VAR teams are located at Stockley Park in west London.

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

VAR is often at the centre of controversy during matches (Picture: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

In what situations can VAR be used?

There are four situations when the VAR team are able to get involved in the game.

  • Goals and offences leading up to a goal – offside/fouls
  • Penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty – offside/fouls
  • Direct red card incidents
  • Mistaken identity

So any potential fouls outside of the penalty box will not be reviewed unless they are worthy of a direct red card, or in the build-up to a penalty decision or goal.

Does the referee call for VAR or does the VAR alert the referee?

It can be either. The referee can inform the VAR that a decision should be reviewed or the VAR can recommend to the referee that it should be looked at.

The VAR is only ever an advisory/support role and the referee does not have to even check a decision if it is recommended they do so.

If there is not a ‘clear and obvious error’ in the original decision, it will not be overturned – VAR can not overrule a referee.

VAR is meant to improve the accuracy of decisions (Picture: Paul Harding/Getty Images)

What happens when a decision is being reviewed?

The VAR team review the incident on video footage and communicate their findings to the referee through an earpiece.

The referee will confirm this by either pointing to his ear to delay a restart to the game, or by making the official VAR review signal (making a rectangle with his hands) to show that play has been stopped to review a decision.

The referee can then either review the video of the incident on the side of the field or just accept the VAR information and take the appropriate action from there.

Will we know if a decision is being reviewed?

Checks are always taking place throughout the game.

However, when a decision is being formally reviewed, a graphic appears on the screen to inform TV audiences and messages are displayed on the stadium screens to inform match going fans.

When will the referee check the video footage at the side of the field?

The referee will use the monitor at the side of the pitch for issues of interpretation, outlined by FIFA as the following…


  • foul committed by attacking player
  • offside interference

Penalty Decisions

  • foul leading up to penalty
  • foul by attacking player

All direct red card incidents

The referee will simply accept the information from the VAR and take the appropriate action in the following situations…


  • offside position leading up to goal
  • ball out of play leading up to goal

Penalty Decisions

  • foul committed inside or outside the penalty area
  • ball out of play leading up to penalty
  • offside position leading up to penalty

All cases of mistaken identity

Referees can watch decisions back at pitch side (Picture: Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

What happens if an incident occurs whilst a decision is being reviewed?

Decisions are supposed to be reviewed when they happen, but say the referee misses a red card offence, play continues and a goal is scored.

This causes serious controversy, but if the VAR alerts the referee and he/she decided it was a red card, the play is brought back to the foul.

If the fouled player’s team goes on to score, the red card could still be given thanks to VAR but advantage is played and the goal still stands.

David Moyes ‘not surprised’ by Arsenal’s early Premier League title bid and singles out Martin Odegaard for praise

MORE : Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher disagree over the Premier League’s best three players

Follow Metro across our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Share your views in the comments below