UEFA has emphasised its firm belief that the video assistant referee (VAR) system will have a positive impact for refereeing at the coming UEFA EURO 2020 finals.
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At a pre-tournament briefing on Friday, the chairman of UEFA’s Referees Committee, Roberto Rosetti, underlined the value of VARs and why they will be crucial in supporting referees and enabling correction decisions to be taken on-field during the tournament.
The system, introduced in UEFA competitions on a gradual basis since 2019, sees a video assistant referee team review decisions made by the referee in certain key match situations with the use of video footage and a headset for communication. The objective is that the VARs should only intervene when a referee makes a clear and obvious mistake, or in cases of serious missed incidents. Referees remain the centre of the decision-making process, but the role of the VARs is seen as essential in preventing errors that could have an important impact on a match.
“UEFA believes very much in this project,” said Rosetti. “The aim is to not only to help referees, but to help football. We are very satisfied with the results, and we are working hard to improve the system.”
VAR base at UEFA in Nyon
Alongside 18 referee teams, 22 video match officials have been appointed for VAR duties at the EURO, and the entire VAR team will be based at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Two rooms have been set up on UEFA’s campus, and the VAR teams have already been given comprehensive briefings on the operation in workshops ahead of the tournament.
At each of the 51 EURO matches, the main video assistant referee (VAR) will be accompanied by an assistant video assistant referee (AVAR), and offside video assistant referee. The VAR is the leader of the team who will be the main point of contact with the referee, with the task of focussing on incidents. The AVAR will concentrate on following the match, while the offside VAR will evaluate all potential offside situations. The team will be accompanied by three operators, as well as a VAR support assistant who will act in a coordination capacity.
“We are very comfortable with the centralised set-up in Nyon, and all of our tests have been very positive,” said Rosetti. “We’re confident that the VAR system will be of great benefit at the EURO – and we believe that our VARs are the best in the world. The aim is that the VARs are careful, clear and show consistency and uniformity in their interventions.”
Rosetti presented positive figures on the VAR system since it was introduced in UEFA’s European competitions two years ago. “Since February 2019, VAR has been used so far at 453 UEFA matches, including 297 in the UEFA Champions League and 115 in the UEFA Europa League,” he explained. “We have been gradually bringing VAR into the other competitions as well.”
In the 453 matches, 139 decisions had been corrected as a result of the VAR system – one correction every 3.25 matches. Out of 2,522 situations that had been checked, 94.5% of decisions taken on the field had been correct. The number of corrected decisions was also showing a downward trend each season, and a key objective in the future, Rosetti added, would be to further reduce the average time of interventions. “The figures show that the system is working very well,” said Rosetti.
New Laws of the Game in force for the EURO
In addition to the VAR system, Rosetti also confirmed that the 2021/22 Laws of the Game drawn up by football’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), would be applied at EURO 2020. The new laws enter into force on 1 July, but can be used in competitions that begin immediately before that date.
The latest edition of the Laws of the Game include clarifications to football’s laws on handball, which have been reworked for the sake of better overall understanding. UEFA’s EURO referees were briefed comprehensively about the new laws at the recent pre-tournament workshop in Nyon.
In addition, referees are being asked to take strong action at the EURO against holding and pushing offences in the penalty area, acts of simulation, and reckless challenges and serious foul play endangering players’ safety. Dissent and mobbing of referees will also be punished. “We want to protect the image of the game and the health of the players,” said Rosetti, “and we will not tolerate unsporting behaviour, or disrespectful conduct towards referees.”
Rosetti welcomed the opportunity which is being given to UEFA’s Referees Committee to speak with the players and coaches of the 24 EURO teams ahead of the tournament. “We are explaining our technical guidelines and instructions for referees to the teams, and talking with them about the changes to the laws,” he said. “We feel it is important for us to work together with the teams to create a better common understanding.”