VAR Needs Work Before It's Ready for Prime Time

With FIFA preparing to unveil the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology at the World Cup this summer, fans across the globe will be hoping it can avoid the problems English football has experienced so far.

VAR, intended to reduce the amount of controversy in football, has only added to the talking points across the United Kingdom over the past two months from pubs to pundits' studios. The technology has been introduced to the FA Cup and League Cup so far, with a variety of problems arising.

The latest, and most farcical event, came at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday night (February 29) when Rochdale faced Tottenham Hotspur for a place in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. VAR disallowed two goals—one correctly, one incorrectly—and stoked confusion among the 24,000 fans in Wembley and millions at home.

Following the game, Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs manager, said: "Football is about emotion. It is a contest of emotion and if we are going to kill emotion in football, the fans, the people who love football, are not happy about what they saw.

"The first half was embarrassing. Everyone was confused and we need to respect the fans. Emotion is why you pay for the ticket, that is why you come to the game when the conditions are so bad."

Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino at Wembley Stadium, London, February 28. Pochettino fears VAR could damage football. Catherine Ivill/Getty

VAR was invented by the Dutch Football Association, led by project manager Mike van der Roest. He says the technology will make the game fairer and ease the job of the referee, and that the outcry over time-lapse is expected.

"That's the first reaction everybody has," he told Newsweek in February. "They say: 'It's taken too long, why is it taking so long?' But I keep repeating that if you watch a match, the net playing time is 60 minutes: 30 minutes are lost by all those incidents without VAR."

Read More: How VAR—Total Refereeing—was born and raised in Dutch football

He added: "If you look at the decision-making time on VAR, if you train them well, one-and-a-half minutes is consumed to get the decision over to a referee. And if you take the time to make sure the correct decision is made then even one-and-a-half minutes is very welcome because that is enhancing the game. Everybody will understand that speed of taking the correct decision is irrelevant if the incorrect decision is taken."

But Pochettino fears the delay removes emotion from fans which could lead to a reduction in ticket sales.

He said: "Then you say 'OK, I am going to watch the game through the TV and stay at home because if I cannot shout when we score because we need to wait two minutes, you cannot express yourself'.

"I am for the new technology but be careful when you change the game that we know."

Currently, VAR is used in four different situations: goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity. Some pundits have suggested the remit be reduced solely to goals, making a review after a team has scored. "We've taken something that could be so good for the game but it's comical at times," former Spurs midfielder and BT Sport pundit Jermaine Jenas said.

VAR is currently still in a trial period. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) will decide next month whether to allow VAR systems to be used worldwide. If so, the German Bundesliga plans to extend its use next season, while the English Premier League will make a decision in April.

Countries Trialing VAR

Netherlands—KNVB Cup

England—League Cup, FA Cup


Italy—Serie A

France—Coupe de France, French League Cup

Portugal—Portuguese Cup, Primeira Liga