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Behind the scenes: Setting up the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system for the Europa League and Europa Conference League

A new video piece, presented by Engelbert Strauss, explains what it takes to set up VAR technology for UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa League Conference league games.

Behind The Scenes: Setting up VAR

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system is bringing better decision-making to games in UEFA's competitions, but as this piece presented by Engelbert Strauss confirms, installing it in every stadium for all the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League knockout round games is quite a challenge.

"The stadium infrastructure does play a part in how you implement the various technologies," says Lee Guerreiro, a pitch and technology specialist who works within UEFA's Football Operations Unit. "The more modern stadia are usually well equipped when it comes to power and wifi, cable routes, and things like that. So, it's different on a case-by-case basis."

The challenge for Guerreiro's team is to ensure that the VAR system is set up to the same precise spec in every stadium, with a huge amount of work being put in as the matchday approaches.

UEFA staff test the pitchside VAR screens at Basel
UEFA staff test the pitchside VAR screens at BaselUEFA via Getty Images

"We begin with the VAR test on matchday -1 and the stadium approval takes place on the evening of matchday -1," he explains. "Then there's various calibrations for the offside system and also camera synchronisation with the host broadcaster and technology provider. Then, on the matchday there are further communications checks to make sure the referees' communication devices are functioning."

It is a system which demands plenty of cooperation on the ground. Guerreiro says: "In the build-up to the match, there is a VAR meeting with all the stakeholders; the host broadcaster, the provider of the technology, the home club, the groundskeeper – everybody impacted by the technology – to discuss the timeline of the various tests and calibrations, and installations."

However, if the VAR system demands a huge amount of work at the venue, it also involves effort at UEFA headquarters, where UEFA Football Technologies Manager Alessandro Arduino has helped to set up a central hub for the system.

"During the pandemic, we were looking for a better solution to have a safer environment for our video system and referee operation," he explains. "Our technical supplier came up with a new solution to connect more easily to the different stadiums in Europe, and allow us to have VAR remote operations."

However, if much of the technical work of operating the VAR system is done remotely, the referee in the stadium ultimately make the decisions. As Arduino says: "When we get close to the match, all the lights in the room go down, the tension grows, and all the video match officials are ready to contact the referee on the pitch to support them, to help them make decisions, and in case of a clear and obvious mistake, to intervene and help the referee to make the correct decision."

The pressure to get the VAR system set up correctly is huge. As Guerreiro says: "The difference between a goal being given with goal-line technology could be the difference between a club's progression, or not."

However, Arduino is sure the effort is worth it, for the good of football. "We really believe this technology has added value to the game," he says. "We have a fairer game and will make the game more beautiful."

VAR is helping referees to get the big decisions right
VAR is helping referees to get the big decisions rightUEFA via Getty Images

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