History of VAR

1 Jun 2020

Why was the system of a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) introduced into the Premier League?

Premier League match officials can make mistakes and those mistakes can have an impact on the outcome of a match. 

Because technology lets people see immediately on TV or on their phones that mistakes have been made, why not use that technology to help what is happening on the pitch? 

'Clear errors'

In 2016, The International Football Association Board (IFAB), which oversees the Laws of the Game, approved trials for video referees or "live experiments with video assistance for clear errors in match-changing situations". 

"The time has come for the debate to be based on evidence,” said David Elleray, a former Premier League referee and now technical director of IFAB.

"Everyone agreed that we needed to see if it works and whether or not it benefits the game.  

"The initial testing will deliberately have a limited focus to minimise the impact of the flow and emotions which are crucial to football.” 

Unanimous vote

On 3 March 2018, IFAB agreed to allow the use of VARs. 

In November 2018, the Premier League clubs voted unanimously to introduce VAR in season 2019/20, pending testing.

The League and Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), which officiates Premier League matches, undertook extensive testing during the 2018/19 season in live matches, while the League also observed VAR in action in FA Cup and EFL Cup ties.

The testing was deemed a success, confirming the introduction of VAR for 2019/20.

In July 2020, IFAB transferred the responsibility of VAR to FIFA. IFAB continues to work closely with FIFA, especially in terms of the VAR protocol, related Laws and qualification requirements.

VAR continuing in 2020/21

At the Annual General Meeting on 6 August 2020, the Premier League's Shareholders unanimously approved the use of VAR, in line with the full FIFA VAR protocol, for a second season.

There are five key areas that highlight the differences in implementation of VAR in 2020/21:

  • Referee Review Area (RRA): Increased use of the RRA, which will be used for subjective decisions in the three key areas - goals, red cards and penalty kicks
  • Goalkeeper encroachment on penalty kicks: The protocol does not allow for tolerance levels, so if the goalkeeper saves a penalty and his foot is over the line then VAR will advise it is retaken. If the goalkeeper is off his line and the ball hits the post or goes over, it won’t be retaken unless the 'keeper has a material impact on the kick being missed
  • Player encroachment on penalty kicks: It is now judged on any part of a player’s body that is on the ground when the kick is taken. So if any part of the foot is on the penalty area or arc line it is encroachment. The player must still have a material impact on the outcome of the kick
  • Offsides: The protocol does not allow for tolerance levels
  • Keeping the flag down for tight marginal offside offences: When an immediate goalscoring opportunity is likely to occur, the assistant referee will keep their flag down until the passage of play is completed. Once the goalscoring opportunity is complete, either a goal is scored or the chance is gone, the assistant will then raise the flag to indicate the initial offence. If a goal is scored the VAR will then review the offside judgement
Further VAR reading

VAR protocol
Premier League's VAR principles
Clear and obvious
Referee Review Area (RRA)
Attacking possession phase
How offsides are determined by VAR
Penalty kicks
Unseen incidents
Final decision
History of VAR
Frequently Asked Questions

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