What Are The Controversies Surrounding VAR?

Discover the controversies surrounding VAR in soccer. From disrupting the flow of the game to challenges in accurate decision-making, find out the impact on the beautiful game.

So you’ve heard about VAR, the video assistant referee in soccer, but you’re wondering what all the fuss is about. Well, let me tell you. The controversies surrounding VAR have been the talk of the soccer world since its introduction.

From fans and players questioning its accuracy to debates over VAR’s potential to disrupt the flow of the game, there’s no shortage of opinions. But what exactly are these controversies, and what impact do they have on the beautiful game? Let’s find out.

1. Role of Technology in Football

Technology has become an integral part of modern sports, including football. One of the most significant technological advancements in football is the implementation of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system. VAR has been introduced with the aim of improving the accuracy and fairness of refereeing decisions.

However, its introduction has sparked debates and controversies among players, coaches, and fans. In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of VAR, its impact on the game, and the controversies it has generated.

1.1 Advantages of VAR

VAR, when implemented correctly, offers several advantages to the game of football. One of the primary benefits is the potential to reduce human error in decision-making. Referees are only human and are prone to making mistakes, especially in high-pressure situations.

VAR provides an additional layer of scrutiny, allowing potential errors to be corrected with the use of technology. This can lead to more accurate and fair outcomes, ensuring that important decisions are not influenced by subjective judgment.

Another advantage of VAR is its ability to rectify marginal offside calls. Offside decisions have always been a contentious issue in football, with millimeter differences determining whether a goal is given or disallowed. Through the use of technology, VAR can provide definitive evidence to determine the correct offside position, resulting in more accurate decisions and avoiding unnecessary controversy.

var in soccer

1.2 Disadvantages of VAR

However, despite the advantages, VAR has also faced significant criticism and generated controversies. One of the main disadvantages is the impact it has on the flow of the game. VAR interventions often result in long stoppages and interruptions, which can disrupt the momentum and intensity of matches. The constant breaks in play can lead to a loss of excitement and make the viewing experience less enjoyable for fans.

Additionally, VAR has been accused of undermining the authority of the on-field referee. The referee’s decision used to be final and respected, but with VAR, their authority is sometimes questioned and overruled. This can create confusion and frustration among players, coaches, and fans, as the final decision may not always align with the referee’s initial judgment.

2. Accuracy and Consistency

2.1 Subjective Decisions

One of the challenges with VAR is its application in subjective decisions. Football is a sport that involves a significant amount of interpreting situations, such as fouls and handballs. While technology can provide additional angles and perspectives, certain decisions still rely on the interpretation of the referee.

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VAR may assist in identifying potential fouls or handballs, but the final decision often comes down to subjective judgment. This can lead to debates about inconsistent interpretations, even with the use of VAR.

2.2 Human Error

Another aspect to consider is that VAR is ultimately operated by humans who are fallible to error. The interpretation of replays, the timing of decisions, and even the positioning of cameras can all be subject to human error. This raises concerns about the reliability of VAR and its ability to consistently deliver accurate decisions. Despite its intention to minimize human error, VAR is not immune to it.

2.3 Inconsistency in Application

Inconsistency in the application of VAR has been a major source of controversy. Different leagues and competitions may have varying guidelines and protocols for the use of VAR, leading to inconsistencies in how it is applied.

soccer girls on the field

The interpretation of rules and the threshold for intervention can differ, resulting in contrasting decisions for similar incidents. This lack of uniformity can be frustrating for players, coaches, and fans who expect consistent refereeing standards across competitions.

2.4 Impact on Flow of the Game

As mentioned earlier, VAR interventions often lead to stoppages and delays in the game. These interruptions can disrupt the natural flow and rhythm of football matches. Momentum shifts can be affected, and the intensity of the game can be diluted. Fans may find themselves waiting for minutes on end while decisions are being reviewed, resulting in a less engaging and dynamic viewing experience. The impact on the flow of the game is a significant concern for those critical of VAR’s influence.

3. Referee’s Authority and Decision-Making

3.1 Undermining the Referee

One of the controversies surrounding VAR is its potential to undermine the authority and decision-making of the on-field referee. The final call in a match used to reside solely with the referee, and their subjective judgment was respected and accepted.

However, with VAR, decisions can be overruled, leading to the perception that the referee’s authority is being eroded. This can create confusion and frustration among players, coaches, and even fans who have grown accustomed to the referee’s word being final.

3.2 Delayed Decision-Making

Another issue related to the implementation of VAR is the potential for delayed decision-making. The time taken to review incidents and replay multiple angles can considerably extend the duration of matches.

This delay can disrupt the rhythm of the game and cause frustration among players and spectators. The excitement and intensity of immediate reactions and decisions can be lost when the game is paused for extended periods. Critics argue that the time spent on VAR deliberations outweighs the benefits it brings to the game.

What Are The Controversies Surrounding VAR

4. Overturned Decisions and Interpretations

4.1 Marginal Offsides

One of the most contentious issues with VAR is the interpretation and overturning of marginal offside decisions. The introduction of VAR has led to goals being disallowed due to a player’s toenail or shoulder being marginally offside.

While the objective of VAR is to ensure fairness and accuracy, these marginal offside calls have sparked debates about the nature of the game and the enjoyment of scoring goals. Critics argue that such strict interpretations detract from the essence of football and have led to unnecessary controversies.

4.2 Handball Controversies

A significant source of controversy with VAR is its application and interpretation of handball incidents. VAR reviews have resulted in penalties being given or disallowed based on the handling of the ball.

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However, inconsistent interpretations of the handball rule and subjective judgments have led to debates about the fairness and accuracy of such decisions. The complexity of defining an intentional handball and the impact of ball-to-hand situations make it challenging to arrive at consistent and universally accepted judgments.

4.3 Fouls and Diving Incidents

VAR has also been involved in reviewing and overturning decisions related to fouls and diving incidents. While the intention is to eradicate diving and punish foul play, the subjectivity of these judgments can lead to controversies.

Players and coaches often disagree with the overturned decisions or the lack of intervention by VAR in instances they perceive as blatant offenses. These controversies highlight the challenges faced by VAR in dealing with subjective incidents and maintaining consistency in its application.

5. Influence of VAR on Officiating

5.1 Pressure on Referees

VAR has undoubtedly placed additional pressure on referees. The expectation for them to make correct decisions has intensified with the availability of technology to review incidents. Referees are constantly under scrutiny, knowing that their decisions can be overturned or criticized with the help of VAR.

What Are The Controversies Surrounding VAR

This added pressure can potentially affect their decision-making and confidence on the field. Some critics argue that VAR has made the job of referees more challenging rather than providing them with tangible assistance.

5.2 Overreliance on Technology

VAR implementation has sparked concerns about the overreliance on technology in decision-making. Football is a sport known for its human element and the occasional controversy that accompanies subjective judgments.

By relying heavily on technology, there is a risk of eroding the essence and spontaneity of the game. Overreliance on VAR can potentially take away the human engagement and emotional aspect that has been an integral part of football for decades.

6. Lack of Fan Engagement and Emotional Experience

6.1 Celebrations and Suspense

VAR’s impact on fan engagement and the emotional experience of watching football matches has been a subject of debate. Goals are often celebrated with sheer emotion and euphoria, with fans erupting in excitement. However, the implementation of VAR has led to instances where celebrations are cut short or dampened due to the subsequent review of goals.

The suspense and joy associated with an immediate goal decision have been replaced with uncertainty and a wait for the VAR verdict. This lack of spontaneity in celebrating goals has drawn criticism from fans who feel their emotional experience is being compromised.

6.2 Dissatisfaction and Frustration

VAR controversies have also contributed to the overall dissatisfaction and frustration among football fans. The uncertainty surrounding decisions and inconsistent application of VAR can lead to disenchantment with the sport.

What Are The Controversies Surrounding VAR

Fans invest their time, money, and emotions into supporting their teams, and VAR controversies can leave them feeling robbed or unfairly treated. The lack of clarity in decision-making and the impact on the outcome of matches have fueled a sense of dissatisfaction among fans worldwide.

7. VAR’s Impact on the Game

7.1 Game Stoppages

Perhaps one of the most noticeable impacts of VAR on football is the increase in game stoppages. VAR interventions require reviewing footage, consulting with officials, and making a final decision. This process can significantly extend the duration of matches and disrupt the natural flow of the game.

Fans may find themselves waiting for minutes on end, diminishing the excitement and intensity of live action. The frequent interruptions have drawn criticism for impeding the fluidity and spectacle of football matches.

7.2 Drama and Momentum Shifts

The introduction of VAR has undoubtedly added a different layer of drama and momentum shifts to football matches. The emotions that come with celebrating a goal or challenging a referee’s decision are now intertwined with the anticipation of a VAR review.

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The momentum swings that could occur from a goal being disallowed or a penalty being awarded after a VAR consultation make the game more unpredictable. These dramatic moments, although sometimes controversial, contribute to the evolving narrative of matches and keep viewers engaged.

8. Technological Limitations

8.1 Camera Angles and Perspectives

While technology has advanced, there are still limitations when it comes to camera angles and perspectives in football matches. VAR relies on the available camera footage to make decisions, and sometimes the angles captured may not provide a definitive view.

This can lead to contentious calls or subjective interpretations, despite the implementation of technology. The reliance on existing camera angles is a constraint that VAR cannot completely overcome, impacting the accuracy of its decisions.

8.2 Inability to Correct Subjective Decisions

VAR’s use in correcting subjective decisions can be tricky due to the inherent subjectivity involved. The use of replays can assist in providing additional information, but certain decisions, such as fouls or handballs, may still require subjective interpretation.

VAR can highlight potential incidents, but the final determination of intent and severity often rests with the referee. This limitation adds to the controversies surrounding VAR, as the technology cannot completely eliminate subjective decision-making from the game.

8.3 Offside Timing Issues

Another limitation of VAR is the timing of offside decisions. The introduction of VAR has led to a more precise analysis of offside positions, often resulting in tight and marginal decisions. However, the specific moment of ball release and the timing of players’ movements can create challenges in accurately assessing offside situations.

The millisecond differences captured by VAR can lead to debates about the fairness and reliability of such calls. The timing limitations of VAR contribute to the controversies that arise from marginal offside decisions.

9. Influence on Spectator Experience and Atmosphere

9.1 Disruption of Fan Celebration

The engagement and excitement of football matches for fans extend beyond the 90 minutes of play. The moments of celebration when a goal is scored, or a crucial decision is made are integral to the overall spectator experience and the atmosphere in stadiums.

However, VAR controversies and the subsequent delays in decision-making can disrupt the spontaneity and joy of fan celebrations. The uncertainty introduced by VAR affects the emotional connection between fans and the game, making them feel detached from the live experience.

9.2 Impact on Crowd Energy

Football matches are known for their vibrant atmosphere, fueled by the energy and passion of the crowd. However, VAR and the controversies surrounding its decisions can impact the crowd’s energy.

Extended delays and VAR interventions can result in a loss of momentum and enthusiasm among fans. The stop-and-start nature of the game breaks the continuity of chants, songs, and collective reactions. The diminished crowd energy can influence the overall atmosphere in stadiums and alter the dynamics of the fan experience.

10. VAR’s Role in Football’s Evolution

10.1 Balancing Tradition and Innovation

What Are The Controversies Surrounding VAR

The controversies surrounding VAR highlight the ongoing challenge of balancing tradition and innovation in football. The sport has evolved with technology, introducing advancements to improve fairness and accuracy.

However, maintaining the essence and emotional engagement of football is equally important. Striking the right balance between tradition and innovation is crucial to ensure that technology like VAR enhances the game rather than overshadowing its core principles.

10.2 The Future of VAR

The future of VAR in football is a topic of constant debate and speculation. While controversies continue to arise, there is still potential for improvement and refinement in its implementation. The evolution of technology and its integration with football may lead to advancements in VAR that address the current limitations and controversies.

Continued discussions, feedback from players, coaches, and fans, and adaptations in protocols may shape the future trajectory of VAR and its role in the game.


In conclusion, VAR’s introduction in football has brought advantages and disadvantages. The aim of improving accuracy and fairness in decision-making is commendable, but controversies surrounding its application and impact cannot be ignored.

The challenges of subjectivity, human error, and the disruption of the game’s flow necessitate ongoing scrutiny and adaptation of VAR. Balancing technological advancements with the emotional engagement and spectator experience is crucial for the successful integration of VAR into football’s evolution. Only with careful consideration and continuous improvement can VAR contribute positively to the beautiful game.