What is a VAR and Why Should We Care?


One of the main reasons for problems in pretty much every area of our lives is human error. No matter if it’s exhaustion or a lack of competence, a sudden lack of focus or the wrong button pressed, human error can be responsible for many problems, from plane crashes to a piece of washcloth ending up in your chicken nuggets. Engineers and product developers are constantly working on eliminating as much human error as possible. The result of this work can be something as trivial as a spellchecker to something as important as a self-driving car. And, in the world of sports, the Video Assistant Referee, also known as VAR.

What is a VAR?

Every football match needs a handful of officials safeguarding the fairness and the regularity of the game. These are the referee, the assistant referees, and other staff overseeing the correct procedures during the game. But these are all humans – and as such, they are prone to human error.

The officials’ decisions are not always perfect – sometimes, they can be wrong, they may miss some circumstances, and this can have an impact on the results of a match. This harms not just the wronged team or player but also the fans, and bookmakers like Betway – sometimes, a misjudgment by an official can mean the difference between a bet that’s won or lost.

To eliminate as much human error as possible, the video assistant referee (VAR) was created.

Basically, the video assistant referee is an official that uses video footage of the match to revise questionable or unclear events on the turf.

VAR – a short history

The idea of using footage of the game to review and revise any possibly questionable situation on the turf emerged in the 2010s in the Netherlands. It was first proposed by the Royal Netherlands Football Association, and they were the first to test it extensively. In the coming years, the idea of the VAR was discussed and debated at the highest level – and it was ultimately adopted in the late 2010s.

The 2018 edition of the FIFA World Cup used video referees to revise ambiguous decisions. As a result, it is considered the “cleanest” World Cup of the last three decades, with fewer yellow and red cards, and more deserved penalty kicks awarded than ever before.

VAR in modern football

How does the VAR work? Well, the basic idea is to record the match from every important angle. There is an official sitting in front of a screen reviewing the events from angles that are not necessarily visible for the officials on the turf. When needed, the VAR can signal the referee that they don’t agree with the decision – in this case, the referee also reviews the footage and can change the verdict accordingly.

Today, some of the biggest and best-known association football leagues and tournaments are using video assistance to the officials, including the English Premier League, Bundesliga in Germany, as well as pretty much every major continental and international competition.