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VAR in football – The good, the bad and the ugly

VAR or the Virtual Assistant Referee is here and is causing a storm in the world of football.

The aim of VAR is to allow for snap decisions to be reviewed more accurately for a “fairer” state of play. VAR only intervenes during obvious or unclear calls by officials and can only be used during 4 key areas of play.


It’s used to double-check if they were offside or not. It can also be used in smaller instances of shirt pulling and other discrepancies which can result in VAR disallowing a goal.


VAR can be used to allow or remove a penalty if there was a clear error in the original decision. For obvious reasons, this is the most controversial call for VAR.

Red cards

Instant red cards can be given using VAR for violent conduct or dangerous tackles but a second yellow cannot.

Mistaken identity

If the ref sends off the wrong player – see Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in Arsenal vs Chelsea in 2014. VAR can be called in to rectify the mistakes.

VAR is limited to these 4 key stages so that it doesn’t interrupt the regular flow of play. 

Seems pretty straight forward right? WRONG.

VAR is upsetting fans throughout the Premier League. We’re seeing some controversial calls all over the show. Looking back at Man Utd vs Liverpool, Marcus Rashford took the lead with a jumping tap-in off Daniel James’ cross into the area from out wide.

However, before the goal, Divock Origi was fouled by a kick to the back of his leg. Origi dropped to the ground and the ball was played to Daniel James on the counter who crossed it into Marcus Rashford.

After these events transpired, VAR stepped in. A lot of people thought the goal was going to be disallowed due to the foul not being called and allowing play to continue resulting in a goal. But VAR allowed the goal.

Later in the match, VAR was called into action again. This time over a handball on Liverpool’s behalf. When Sadio Mane scored, it looked like he’d controlled the ball with his hand. VAR stepped in and overturned the decision and disallowed the goal.

Even though, retrospectively, these calls seem fair, fans are entitled to be upset.

So, what are the other criticisms of VAR?

  • VAR is monitored off-site so decisions can take a while, with some games having 5 or 6 minutes of stoppage time. This massively disrupts play during the match.
  • Fans are not always aware when a decision is being reviewed, especially in stadiums without a screen such as Anfield or Old Trafford. Fans at the Burnley vs West Ham game were left for 3 minutes while the teams scrambled around the VAR decision.
  • A lot of the joy can be removed from the game. When your team scores you want the stadium to erupt with passion. But thanks to VAR it can be a bit hesitant or reluctant to celebrate until your pending result has been cleared.

With VAR being so prevalent in modern-day football, what do you think? Lots of big clubs are backing the use of VAR while fans tend to be swinging the opposite way. Should it be a permanent fixture of all games?

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