Innovations change our everyday lives, and recent innovations in sport are changing parts of the game for players, officials and audiences.
Few recent changes to football have been as divisive as VAR (Video Assistant Referee). The idea is simple, VAR supports the decision making process of the referee in four game changing situations:
- Goals and offences leading up to a goal
- Penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty
- Direct red card incidents
- Mistaken identity
VAR has been tested in several competitions including the FA cup, but it has received mixed reactions with many calling for VAR to be overhauled or even scrapped completely. VAR fueled controversy has already occurred early on in the competition.
However, this hasn’t deterred FIFA from using it in all 64 games. A dedicated video assistant referee team compromising of a lead VAR and three assistant VARs are located at the Video Operation Room (VOR) in the International Broadcast Centre Moscow. All of the VAR team are top FIFA match officials.
VARs can speak to referees using fibre-based radio systems, while 33 broadcast camera feeds and two dedicated offside cameras are directly transmitted to the VAR using the same network. Eight of these feeds are super-slow motion and four are ultra-slow motion. At knockout games, there will be two additional ultra-slow motion cameras.
Each VAR looks at a different camera feed, informing referees of any mistakes or missed incidents. Or, the referee can ask for assistance. The referee review area (RRA) is a clearly marked area containing a mobile screen device allowing the referee to review incidents. It is located pitch side near the technical areas.
VAR doesn’t make things 100% accurate and referees with access to it have still made incorrect decisions. FIFA has pledged to improve the process with the “VAR Information System” which ensures broadcasters, commentators and in-stadium infotainment operators are informed. This includes both the reason for and the outcome of the review. The tablet based system also automatically generates TV graphics for broadcasters.
Perhaps the biggest issue, is keeping disruption of games to a minimum, it must be remembered that many referees at the World Cup have never previously used VAR.
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