Does VAR mean all will be on their best behaviour at the World Cup?
By Joe Harker
Remember when the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was supposed to make football better? It would iron out the most egregious mistakes, cut down on diving and generally restore some of the faith that had been lost in officiating over the past few years.
Unfortunately, the idea of VAR turned out to be somewhat better than the execution with a handful of disastrous events and plenty of time consuming issues for good measure. The only sane choice is to fully implement it during the World Cup, right?
Yes, VAR will be in force during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It will be used for goals, fouls in the build up to a goal, penalties and associated offences, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity. Every stadium will be fitted with 33 cameras, including several super slow motion cameras, to allow officials in the VAR hub in Moscow to see an incident from every angle and make a judgement.
One of the main criticisms of VAR is the lack of communication for fans in the stands. Those watching at home often get to see a series of replays themselves but those in the stadium often have no clue. FIFA are seeking to remedy this so those in the stadium can observe the decision making process. There will also be written explanations for every decision, ensuring the officials outline their reasoning.
England manager Gareth Southgate has said the use of VAR at the World Cup will give his players no room to get away with diving or other trickery. He urged his squad not to get caught up trying to trick the referee because they would be able to check the replays and punish cheaters. He said: "It's not that we are looking to get away with anything but, if we thought we could, then that's gone."
One of the main features of VAR at the World Cup is the use of retrospective red cards. Even if a player thinks they've got away with it thanks to the final whistle they are no longer safe. It would only be used for the most serious of incidents, but it might help prevent them if a player knows they could be caught and banned after the match is over.
Some of the most famous moments in World Cup history could have been very different with VAR. Maradona's "hand of god" goal would never have stood for one, while Laurent Blanc might have made the 1998 final and South Korea could have been knocked out by Spain in 2002. The World Cup is only once every four years so a big refereeing mistake can be absolutely devastating. If VAR goes some way to preventing that, its reputation might begin to improve.