What Is VAR in Soccer?

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VAR is currently being used in the Champions League, the Europa League, the Premier League, and other soccer leagues across Europe. VAR technology is an incredible way to make the game more precise and fair. So what is VAR in soccer?

What Is VAR in Soccer?

A video assistant referee (VAR) is a qualified match official who watches the match via several screens and can view replays in slow motion. The video assistant referee looks at the video recording of the soccer match at different angles to identify and solve any suspected dispute and assist the referee on the field.

Technology made it easier for people watching from their TV or phones to see mistakes made on the pitch. So the football association used the same technology to implement VAR to help rectify the incidents and a critical decision made.

Referee is showing to the press how the video assistant referee (VAR) system works

What Makes up VAR?

The main goal of VAR is to fix officiating errors and help make decisions during the game. This process involves some people and not one person. VAR is situated in the video operation room, consisting of at least three people:

Video Assistant Referee

This person communicates with the head referee on the pitch via a microphone. The video assistant referee can contact the on-pitch referee if a particular incident needs a review. However, VAR can only recommend a review and not request it.

Assistant VAR (AVAR)

The assistant video referee assists VAR in the operation room. The person can only speak to the on-pitch referee if VAR is busy doing the check. However, their main job is to keep track of VAR-related situations in a match like communication and any technological issues.

eplay Operator

As the name suggests, this person is in charge of assisting video officials by managing the broadcast. They pull the video of the play in question and find the best angles to allow for the right decision to be made.

How Does VAR Work?

Referee observing an ongoing soccer match

The referee informs VAR that a particular incident needs a review for clarity. VAR can also communicate to the referee if they identify a clear and unmistakable error. In this situation, all players must remain on the pitch and coaches in their technical area.

The referee addresses what they have seen from the pitch and VAR, in turn, checks the video footage using as many angles as possible. The video footage is also offered in a slow-motion replay to identify the point of contact.

VAR only gives his opinion, and it is now up to the match referee to give the final verdict. The match referee can leave their decision unchanged, accept their colleague’s suggestions regarding a decision or request to watch the incident again themselves via a Referee Review Area (RRA).

What Is the Referee Review Area (RRA)?

This screen is sited at the touchline where the referee watches the incident when they choose to. Before making their way over to the RRA, the referee makes a TV signal for the on-field review. The decision made is then shown on the mega screens in the stadium to communicate it to the spectators. The referee also signals by show of hands the conclusion they have decided.

When Is VAR Used?

VAR is usedVAR is not used
Potential red cardsPotential yellow card
Potential off-side before a goalYellow card fouls outside the penalty area
Potential foul before a goalHandballs outside the penalty area
Potential handball inside the penalty areaOff-side positions that don’t lead to an advantage

Coaches and staff cannot request the use of VAR. For VAR to be brought into play, there must be an incident concerning four match-changing situations:

Close up of a referee holding a checkered flag beside a fallen soccer ball
  • Goal or no goal: A VAR checks if a goal counts or gets disregarded. The dismissal can be due to foul play, handball, or offside position.
  • Penalty kick: If a foul occurs, VAR confirms whether it happened in the penalty area to determine whether there will be a free-kick or a penalty.
  • Direct red card: VAR can go back and check if an opposing team deserves a red card regarding goal-scoring opportunity denial or serious fouls with reckless intention.
  • Goalkeeper feet during penalty: The VAR can check if the goalkeeper kept their feet on the line before saving a penalty kick. If he didn’t, the penalty has to be repeated.

Related Questions

Can VAR Overrule the Referee?

No, the VAR cannot overrule the decision of the on-field referee. He always has the last decision in any polemic play. However, the VAR can point out something the on-field referee didn’t see, which can change his decision.

For instance, if the on-field referee misses a dangerous foul, the VAR can inform him, and he will then take his decision. In this case, the VAR may interrupt the game due to a potential red card.

Does VAR Affect Players?

Yes, VAR has an impact on both the players and the gameplay. The VAR reduced the number of fouls and red cards. On top of that, it increased the total playtime by 30-120 seconds on average.

Does the VAR Intervene on Every Foul?

No, the VAR only intervenes in two situations: a goal check and a potential red card. This way the game doesn’t get interrupted too often and it increases the flow of the match.

However, the VAR does check all fouls and goals during the game. They just interrupt the game when they see something worth reviewing.


Soccer has been one of the most-watched sports globally from way back in the days. Various incidents in soccer may require decisions the players and fans will be satisfied with. Familiarizing yourself with VAR and its rules will enable you to understand the decisions made by the referees. 

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.