What is VAR in soccer?

Video assistant referee

VAR stands for "Video assistant referee," which is an official in soccer (football to the world outside of America) introduced in 2016. The VAR reviews decisions made by the head referee with the use of video replay to improve accuracy.

The VAR was introduced worldwide by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in the 2018 World Cup. VAR comes into play if a questionable call or no-call occurs in one of the following areas:

  • Goals
  • Penalties
  • Red cards
  • Mistaken identity (awarding a yellow or red card to the wrong player)
When a call is made or missed in the match, the VAR reviews it with the help of one or more assistant VARs (AVARs) and replay operators (ROs) in the video operation room. If necessary, the VAR notifies the head referee on the field via headset communication about the call or missed call.

The referee can then overturn or make a call based on the VAR's advice, review the play on the sideline, or ignore the VAR's advice. If the referee decides to review the play on the sideline or if the play is changed because of the VAR, he or she makes an outline of a rectangle with his or her hands, which represents the video screen.


The penalty shot was the right call thanks to the VAR overturn

Head referee indicating he will review the play due to advice from the VAR

Related Slang


Updated July 3, 2019

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