The world of professional sport is a tough one. There are a lot of technologies in place to make sure that people can have the type of experience which is firm and fair for everyone – otherwise you might get allegations of cheating and a definite level of upset among the fans and die-hard enthusiasts. 


So the rise of technology has meant that there is more now that we can do to make it easier for games and technology to be captured and exploited. One of these things is the VAR, known to many as the virtual assistant referee. But how does this work behind the scenes? 


What is VAR?


Now usually, there is an extensive training process to take the latest generation of referees and train them into being an incredible force for playing properly. They represent the best that we have to offer in terms of unofficially neutral and unbiased sportsmanship. We rely on them for the objective decisions that they make and the way that they safeguard the exciting processes which go on during a football match. 


But, let’s be honest about a few things. Everyone, without fail, is human. They can have bad days. They can be prone to sudden swings and lapses in judgement, or they can just straight up get it wrong. So a system was put in place to help out with such an eventuality. This was known to many as the virtual assistant referee. They were called into place to make sure that when a ref made a clear and obvious error that it could be sorted and corrected to allow normal play to continue. 

How Does the VAR Operate?


So how does a VAR operate? Which core parts of the gameplay do they intervene with? The VAR is only called into place when one of four things happening which could alter the outcome of a game. 


These are when the legitimacy of a goal is called into question, when there is a penalty shot which needs to be awarded, when there is a red card being falsely handed out (or not handed out, depending on the situation), and when there is a case of mistaken identity among players, for example when someone gets a punishment meant for someone else. 

Does the VAR Work?


A lot of people see the VAR  as being the ultimate upgrade to the conventional referee. They aren’t bound by the same human issues, so they can operate with more neutrality and objectivity. They can make decisions which are going to be better for everyone and they can do so in such a way which is considered to be neutral. 


Creating this system is often challenging to do. You need to be able to engineer a situation where the VAR is capable of making a decision based on what they see and what this means. It is designed to help overturn those errors which are clear and obvious – when a ref does call it wrong they can alter the entire play for a game. It is important to give people the ability to find and correct this issue ahead of time. 


Neutrality – Required 


It’s so important when it comes to something like this that the VAR is capable of being objective and fair. What is important to note is that when it comes to something like this, you need to understand that the final decision will always come from the ref themselves. While the VAR can point out the errors and help to address them, the final decision isn’t theirs to make – that still belongs with the person on the pitch at the time. 


Does the System Help? 


Yes, it does. A system like this is in place for one specific reason – to make sure that problems are stopped before they can get started. 


Imagine for a moment that you were a team about to win and the ref made a judgement call that broke your chances of victory. If this was unfair and the wrong call to make, then you’re going to want a second option or to try and overturn it. The VAR comes into place to make sure that this happens, by giving players the support that they need to get everything done and to question the decisions which are blatantly wrong. Some of them are, of course, and so it falls to the virtual presence to examine the situation and come up with the relevant information. 

Overall, the inclusion of a VAR into the lives of many footballers is a good thing. Having a second pair of eyes is critical for making sure that everything is done when it needs to be. There is no rush and delay – nothing to make people worry about whether or not they need to think about arguing it out. We’ve all seen images and movie clips of the ref and a player arguing the toss about a particular result. It is never pretty, but it can be an inevitable part of the whole experience. Having a virtual presence to make objective calls and help to overturn the obvious wrong choices is a good thing. It gives players the confidence that they need to be able to create the results that they deserve, and it also means that the referee does have backup if they ever make the wrong call. It’s not something that they would want to do deliberately, but it does happen from time to time, which is why it’s nice to have this backup in place.