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July 8, 2018
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July 12, 2018

The final say: field referee or the VAR?

A field referee uses the VAR. Source:

The first round of the 2018 Russia World Cup tournament has been challenging from one aspect and entertaining from another. The diehard lovers of the sport in different parts of the world are not completely satisfied with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system which brought the referees’ decisions under scrutiny in a most complicated way.

The question is: who has the final say? Is it the field referee or the VAR system which consists of a team of eight persons who are monitoring the various aspects of the match? Secondly, on what basis is a field incident worthy of a second look? Does the system have to make a judgement?

Before we try to answer those questions, we must define the guidelines of each decision which the official referee can make. Outside of the normal rules, which have been in existence for many years, the recent addition of the video system has been put in place in order to assist the referee following his/her primary decisions on infringements which may appear debatable.

The question is: who decides which incident should be judged by the VAR? Does the referee have to call on this unit to answer their decision which they have been able to see from close up?

We must recall that a referee has a responsibility to act within his discretion in many cases. A number of key decisions have been made by referees, with the VAR not requested, as debatable as they may have appeared.

Do not believe that your TV picture is different to what the VAR personnel are seeing. No! We have seen decisions of referees at different times, debatable on many occasions, but the referee was not called upon to make the judgements which should have been left for the VAR. No one has given a thorough explanation as to who does what regarding the most crucial decisions on the football field.

Many matches at this World Cup have been lost because of dubious decisions from the referees. Has anyone noticed the number of incidents where the players applied pressure to seek a decision from the VAR? The results have been changed more times than not.

The problem is the uncertain methodology with regard to who makes the final decision. Why have these situations, especially when they are within the penalty area or its environ, been analysed by the VAR, even without asking the referee or vice versa?

It is my opinion that there have been flaws in the system, oftentimes with countries paying for it with some unfair penalties. However, if this pattern of judgement has to be fair, both the VAR and the referee must endorse them.

FIFA should have put this system in place for at least four years prior to these World Cup finals, when the referees and the VAR can demonstrate the art of fair play.  I am blaming no one personally, but the principle is unclear and could affect the final results of some matches.