Table of Contents
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is a technology-driven officiating tool implemented in football (soccer) to support on-field referees in making precise decisions during pivotal moments of a game. This system employs video footage and advanced technology to review and analyze key incidents, such as goals, penalties, and red card situations. VAR aims to ensure fairness and accuracy in refereeing by providing additional perspectives and insights. It has become an integral part of modern football, contributing to the enhancement of officiating standards and minimizing errors that could impact the outcome of matches.
How VAR Works
- A team of video assistant referees (VARs) stationed in a remote video operation room (VOR) monitors the game using multiple camera angles.
- When a potential clear and obvious error occurs in specific situations like goals, penalties, red cards, or mistaken identity, the VARs can alert the on-field referee through a headset.
- The referee can then choose to:
– Review the footage themselves on a field-side monitor (on-field review or OFR).
– Make a decision based on the VAR’s advice without reviewing the footage (VAR-only review).
Benefits of VAR
- Reduces the number of incorrect refereeing decisions.
- Promotes fairer and more accurate outcomes.
- Enhances transparency and accountability in officiating.
Criticisms of VAR
- Can slow down the pace of the game.
- May lead to controversial decisions due to subjectivity in interpreting video footage.
- Can create tension and confusion among players and fans.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has revolutionized football by introducing a new layer of scrutiny and aiming to correct on-field mistakes. However, its implementation hasn’t been without its fair share of controversy. Here are 10 VAR decisions that sparked heated debate.
Top 10 Controversial VAR decisions in Football
|Controversial VAR decisions
|2019 Champions League Final: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool
|2022 World Cup Qualifier: Portugal vs. Serbia
|2021 Premier League: Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur
|2020 Premier League: Arsenal vs. Leeds
|2021 Serie A: Juventus vs. Roma
|2023 La Liga: Barcelona vs. Getafe
|2023 Serie A: Juventus vs. Salernitana
|2021 Premier League: Everton vs Arsenal
|2018 World Cup: Portugal vs. Iran
|2019 Women’s World Cup: Cameroon vs England
2019 Champions League Final: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool (Handball by Moussa Sissoko)
- Incident: In the dying moments of the first half, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold’s shot struck Moussa Sissoko’s arm, and VAR awarded a penalty to Liverpool, which converted it to take the lead.
- Controversy: Many argued that Sissoko’s arm was in a natural position and the contact was accidental, making the penalty harsh.
2022 World Cup Qualifier: Portugal vs. Serbia (Cristiano Ronaldo disallowed goal)
- Incident: Cristiano Ronaldo‘s late goal for Portugal was disallowed after VAR deemed it offside, despite replays showing a minimal margin.
- Controversy: Portugal players and fans were incensed, claiming the technology was used incorrectly and Ronaldo was denied a crucial goal.
2021 Premier League: Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Jorginho penalty)
- Incident: Chelsea’s Jorginho went down under minimal contact from Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez, and VAR awarded a penalty, which Jorginho converted.
- Controversy: Tottenham players and fans argued that the contact was too slight and didn’t warrant a penalty, highlighting the subjectivity of VAR in judging intent.
2020 Premier League: Arsenal vs. Leeds (Nicolas Pepe Red Card)
- Incident: Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe received a straight red card after VAR deemed his headbutt on Leeds’ Ezgjan Alioski to be dangerous conduct.
- Controversy: Many, including Pepe himself, argued that the contact was minimal, and the red card was excessive, raising concerns about VAR’s potential to over-punish.
2021 Serie A: Juventus vs. Roma (Tammy Abraham offside)
- Incident: Roma’s Tammy Abraham’s goal was disallowed for offside by a hair’s breadth after VAR intervention, denying them a potential equalizer in the final.
- Controversy: The tight offside call and the use of lines drawn on replays sparked debate about the accuracy and fairness of VAR in such marginal situations.
2023 La Liga: Barcelona vs. Getafe (Ronald Araujo foul not given)
- Incident: Barcelona’s Ronald Araujo was clearly fouled in the penalty box by Getafe’s David Soria, but VAR deemed it not clear and obvious enough to overturn the on-field decision of no penalty.
- Controversy: Barcelona fans and players were furious, highlighting the inconsistency of VAR in awarding penalties for similar offenses.
2023 Serie A: Juventus vs. Salernitana (Leonardo Bonucci handball)
- Incident: Juventus’ Leonardo Bonucci handled the ball inside the box, but VAR deemed it unintentional and not a penalty, despite protests from Salernitana.
- Controversy: The subjectivity of judging intent for handballs remained a point of contention, with many questioning the consistency of VAR decisions in such instances.
Everton vs Arsenal 2021-22 Premier League (VAR deemed the collision unintentional)
- Incident: In the December 2021 Premier League clash between Arsenal and Everton, the match gained notoriety for unfavorable reasons, with Everton’s Ben Godfrey being a central figure. Godfrey’s persistent and reckless tackling drew attention, culminating in a particularly egregious incident involving Takehiro Tomiyasu. In a tackle marked by its severity, Godfrey’s studs made forceful contact with Tomiyasu’s face, resulting in a lasting scar. Despite the apparent severity of the incident, both the referee and VAR concluded that the collision was unintentional. Consequently, Godfrey escaped any disciplinary action, and Everton ultimately secured a 2-1 victory in the game.
Portugal vs. Iran, 2018 World Cup
- Incident: A soft challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo resulted in a penalty for Portugal, which Ronaldo missed. Later, Ronaldo elbowed an Iranian player but received only a yellow card. In stoppage time, VAR awarded Iran a dubious penalty for handball, equalizing the score.
Cameroon vs England, 2019 Women’s World Cup
- Incident: A crucial goal scored by Cameroon’s Ajara Nchout was disallowed due to an offside review.
- Controversy: During the round of 16 match in football, there was a highly debated VAR decision that caused controversy. The decision involved an offside review that resulted in a disallowed goal scored by Cameroon’s Ajara Nchout. This decision drew attention and surprise, especially considering that England had already benefited from two goals awarded through the use of VAR. While the Cameroon players expressed frustration, the England team did not share the same sentiment.
These are just a few examples of how VAR has generated controversy in football. While it has helped rectify some clear errors, its implementation and interpretation remain subject to debate, highlighting the ongoing challenge of balancing technology with the human element in the beautiful game.