Did you disagree with the penalty that was awarded to France in the World Cup Final using the Video Assistant Referee (VAR)?
VAR was first trialled in 2012 and first used in a live match in 2016. Its first official use came during a match in 2017 and subsequently used in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. On the 3rd March 2018, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) included VAR in the laws of the game, and it is today optional for competitions to use or not.
How Video Assistant Referee works
VAR is only to be used to correct errors and missed incidents. It operates on a three-step process of firstly identifying the incident, secondly reviewing the incident and offering advice and finally a decision.
According to Wikipedia, VAR is used to review four types of incidents:
VARs and other match officials can recommend reviews to the referee, but the referee will have the final say on whether their original decision should stand or should be changed. The referee can review the footage themselves on a pitch-side monitor before making a final decision.
2018 FIFA World Cup
The 2018 FIFA World Cup marked the VAR system’s World Cup debut, and there were several notable uses. VAR checked a total of 335 incidents and 14 calls made by referees were changed after being reviewed. The dramatic increase in penalties was due to the VAR catching fouls that otherwise would have remained unpunished.
According to FIFA, the VAR system had a success rate of 99.3%, up from the 95% of correct calls by referees without VAR.
So what´s for the future?
VAR has added drama and entertainment value. If we believe FIFA figures, it has improved the accuracy of decisions, thus making the game much fairer, which is a positive change. We also have a new visual language of players drawing a rectangular shape in the air to encourage referees to review a controversial moment. All of this adds to the drama of the moment.
There is a case for using technology to assist with the analysis of the event. For example, facial recognition can automatically assist with the mistaken identity as a backup strategy.
Video analysis software is currently used to analyse human movement such as walking or running. We have previously worked with motion capture data and automated forms of analysing human movement in sport. In taking that a step further, a blend of video analysis software and artificial intelligence can look at player biomechanics. We could instantly build a model of a player’s biomechanics and assess their movement, momentum and the force applied from one player to another to see if they were knocked over in the penalty area. Was enough force used to knock the player over or was the force used minimally and therefore did they dive?
There is no doubt that VAR is here to stay due to enhanced entertainment, accuracy and fairness.
How do you think technology could be used to improve VAR further?