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Will VAR be in the Premier League this 2019-20 season?

15:40 BST 22/06/2019
Premier League VAR
The technology is now widely used across the world but the controversies caused by it show no sign of abating

The video assistant referee - VAR - will be introduced in the Premier League next season and is set to be one of the most significant and contentious changes to the game in England for some time.

Football has generally been reluctant to embrace technology compared to other sports. The likes of tennis, rugby and cricket have used video replays or ‘hawk-eye’ technology for several years, yet football was always resistant.

Goalline technology was belatedly introduced in 2012 but only after a series of high-profile errors, most notably Frank Lampard’s ghost goal against Germany at the 2010 World Cup. However, it has now seamlessly become part of the game.

Early evidence suggests a considerable period of adjustment will be required before we can say the same about VAR.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) say VAR is there to ensure "clear and obvious errors" and "serious missed incidents" will be corrected. The decisions that can be reviewed have been broken down into four categories - the awarding of goals, the awarding of penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identities.

The officials in the VAR room can check any decision that fall under those categories. If they spot a possible clear and obvious error they will then communicate that to the on-field referee via a headset.

The referee can then either overturn the decision, ignore the VAR advice or conduct an on-field review (OFR) and use a pitchside monitor to review the decision.

After a series of trials in the Netherlands and America, the Australian A-League became the first league to adopt the technology in April 2017. Major League Soccer and the Confederations Cup in Russia followed suit later that year

Bundesliga and Serie A were the first major European leagues to introduce the technology ahead of the 2017-18 season and in March 2018 the IFAB wrote VAR into the laws of the game on a permanent basis. Later that same month it was confirmed that the 2018 World Cup would use the system with La Liga adopting its use for the 2018-19 campaign. The latter stages of the Europa League and Champions League also used VAR last season.

English football was slower to fully embrace VAR, instead holding a series of trials in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup. However, in November 2018 Premier League clubs voted in favour of introducing the technology ahead of the 2019-20 season, joining 26 other domestic leagues across the world in using the system.

VAR has achieved its main aim of correcting blatantly incorrect decisions. However, it has also created a series of other issues as the game struggles to adjust to the new technology, most notably the delay to play and the confusion it causes while a decision is being reviewed.  

The IFAB hope messages on the big screens at stadiums will keep fans informed as to what is happening.

You then have incidents like the one involving Scotland at the Women’s World Cup, when Scottish goalkeeper Lee Alexander saved a stoppage-time penalty only for the referee to order it to be retaken as replays showed Alexander’s foot was narrowly off the goalline. Argentina subsequently scored the retaken spot-kick to level the game at 3-3 and ensure Scotland’s elimination.

It has since been confirmed that those decisions will remain with the on-field officials in the Premier League next season, a welcome adjustment but one that highlights how the game is still working out how to employ this new technology effectively.

It is also too little, too late for Scotland, of course, and there are likely to be plenty more controversial decisions - and minor rules changes - before VAR truly feels like part of the game.