Only last April, Premier League Clubs voted against using Video Assisted Referees (VAR) during the current season. But after further consideration at a meeting on Thursday, clubs have decided to go ahead with its introduction.

Why the change of heart about VAR?

We explain how VAR works and the possible issues with its usage during the World Cup in this article. It is widely considered that its use in Russia was successful, with 355 situations reviewed by VAR officials and 14 referee decisions overruled during the group stage. Major leagues in Spain, Germany, Italy and France already have it in play. All they need to do now is make an official request to Fifa and the International Football Association Board. If this is accepted, VAR can be used in Premier League football matches from the start of next season.

The decisions reached through VAR remain advisory, with the final say staying with the match referee. There are guidelines for how it is used during a game, including a yellow card for players that request VAR confirmation.

What are the benefits of VAR?

As reported by the Guardian, a Premier League statement explains: “Key learnings from VAR’s use in the FA and Carabao Cups, and other leagues across the world, were discussed in detail. The Premier League’s non-live testing programme will remain in place for the rest of this season, with a continued emphasis on those Saturday afternoons which have several matches being played concurrently, and developing a clear protocol for communicating VAR decisions to fans.”

Excellent example from Charlie Austin

Southampton’s Charlie Austin had a goal disallowed for offside during last Saturday’s game against Watford. A version of his post-match interview, which was altered for comic effect, quickly went viral. But his words were in support of VAR for Premier League matches: “They go on about VAR this and VAR that. Help the officials out. Clearly they need help. Clearly. We play in the Premier League. The best league in the world. The most watched league in the world. Give them all the help they need.” His frustration as a player is totally understandable. The mistakenly called offside goal cost Southampton two points.

These are the kind of errors that VAR can tackle, under the lead of the main on-pitch match referee.

What about the other Football Leagues?

There is some concern that other Football Leagues will struggle to follow suit. They need a combination of experienced staff and money to fund the advance technology. Shaun Harvey, EFL chief executive described capability for the video technology as “a fair way away” for Football League clubs. “We don’t have the TV cameras in place that are standard fare at Premier League clubs. Another concern is around match officials and the staffing off it. We need our best officials out on the field on a Saturday.”

There is so much rapidly developing technology involved in the entire VAR system: monitors, video operation room, wireless headsets for communication between the pitch and officials in the hub, goal-line technology sensors, to name but a few. Each element is continuously tweaked, through R&D, to improve its speed and accuracy. If you are working in this exciting field where sport and IT intertwine, do not miss out on the R&D tax relief you are entitled to.


Jamie Smith