Russia 2018 is the first World Cup at which the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system has been used – and it has proved a considerable talking point.
That was the case once again on Monday night as England’s 2-1 victory over Tunisia saw a penalty given for Kyle Walker’s use of an arm as he marked Fakhreddine Ben Youssef but none awarded on two occasions that Harry Kane was manhandled in the area.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the key issues regarding VAR:
The VAR system is designed to support the decision-making process in four game-changing situations: the awarding of goals and penalty kicks, the issuing of straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity. The referee on the pitch can request assistance with these decisions from, or it can be recommended by, a video officials team, who they are in radio communication with and are watching footage for “clear and obvious errors”. The on-field referee has the final say. They may have been talked through what the footage shows, or watched replays on a pitch-side monitor.
At this World Cup, for each match there is a team located in a centralised video operation room in Moscow consisting of a VAR and three assistants. Thirteen referees have been selected to act solely as VARs during the tournament, while some of the on-field referees will also perform the role. The VAR team has access to 33 broadcast cameras, plus two offside cameras available only to them. For the knockout phase two additional ultra slow-motion cameras, one installed behind each goal, will also be available to the VAR team.
Players risk a booking if they attempt to influence any official to use VAR and managers or other non-playing staff risk being sent to the stand if they do the same, or encroach on the area where the referee is reviewing footage.
The use of the system at this tournament was rubber-stamped by the FIFA Council on March 16, a formality after the International Football Association Board approved its use at a meeting earlier in the month. It had been trialled across the world since 2016, and Serie A and the Bundesliga were among the top-tier European leagues to have it in use last season. The Premier League did not, but it was trialled in some Carabao Cup and FA Cup matches.
There have been concerns expressed about the system – not least in English football – prior to this tournament with regard to decisions made and how long reviews have taken, and after Monday’s England game, former Three Lions defender Gary Neville wrote on Twitter that it was “not fit for purpose” at the World Cup. There was a particularly notable incident on Saturday when France’s Antoine Griezmann scored a contentious penalty in a 2-1 win over Australia, a spot-kick awarded after footage of Joshua Ridson’s challenge on the forward was watched by the referee on the pitch-side monitor. Since then, penalties have also been awarded to Peru and Sweden following pitch-side reviews.