VAR: How does it work in Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1?

VAR is where we expected it to be - Swarbrick

The first few months of using video assistant referees in the Premier League have seen plenty of controversy, frustration and anger, with a number of high-profile incidents.

The league will now lead a consultation on how well the VAR system is working but no major changes will be made this campaign.

Neil Swarbrick, the Premier League referees' lead on VAR, told BBC Sport earlier this week he would rate the introduction of the technology as a seven out of 10 so far.

But how does the system work elsewhere? BBC Sport asked four journalists how VAR is working in the major European leagues and to give their scores out of 10.


Football writer and Bundesliga expert Chris Williams:

How well did VAR work initially?

There were quite a few problems when it was first implemented in 2017. It was taking a long time to come to decisions and there was confusion in stadiums, there was nothing on the screens and you did not even know there was a VAR check in operation.

What changes were made?

Germany's PGMO (Professional Game Match Officials Board) equivalent got together in the mid-season break in 2017-18 and they decided to use the pitchside monitors more. But that then went the other way where there was overuse of them. They have since got to a happy medium but it took a while to get there.

The key turning point was that once the referees started using the monitors, the players could see the incidents and started accepting the decisions. There was no berating the referee because they knew it would go to VAR. This has made it an easier sell in Germany.

How is it working now?

It is working a lot better. There was an incident in last Friday'sexternal-link Cologne-Hoffenheim game and that was as good as it could be. A penalty was given to Hoffenheim deep in added time but the incident was initially missed by the referee. It was a clear foul, the VAR flagged it, the referee had got it wrong but overturned it on advice and the visitors won the game. It was a flawless process, really quick and took between 45 and 90 seconds.

VAR success rating: 8/10

La Liga

Spanish football writer Andy West:

How well did VAR work initially?

There were teething problems when it was introduced in 2018. The problem at first was that the smallest, most minute things were being checked. It was taking a long time for every VAR review and breaking the play up far too much. The fans had the same levels of frustrations as those in England. It would be normal for games to have seven or eight minutes of time added on which is not the case now.

What changes were made?

The big change this season, although there has not been an official announcement, is that the reviews are much quicker and if they review something that they immediately see is not going to be clear they leave it and move on. It is a much smoother process.

It is those little fouls in the box - 'is it a penalty? We can't tell, move on'.

In La Liga, they are trying to clamp down on dangerous tackles from behind - not only fouls but if they stand on the back of an opponent's heel through carelessness. Referees are being flagged about the incident from the VAR and told to have a look on the monitor and they can decide whether it is a red card.

How is it working now?

It has really settled down and is a lot better in the second season. Any new system like this is bound to take a bit of time to getting used to.

The delays are a lot fewer and the incidents they are reviewing are much more obvious.

The areas that still need improving are handballs and offsides but that more reflects the weakness of the law rather than VAR. VAR is exposing how bad the laws are, especially for handball which has so many ambiguities.

VAR success rating: 7/10

Serie A

Get Italian Football News editor-in-chief Chloe Beresford:

How well did VAR work initially?

It was very slow when it was introduced in 2017. It was not great from a fans' perspective because the long wait killed the enjoyment. That was the main criticism.

Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi complained most vociferously about the system with reportsexternal-link even suggesting that his side were ready to quit Serie A altogether in protest. Lazio were awarded a penalty against Inter Milan in 2017, only to have it rescinded after consultation with the VAR.

What changes were made?

It is a lot quicker now. The referees' chief Marcello Nicchi said that there were far fewer red cards for violent conduct because they knew they would be picked up by the VAR and not be able to get away with it.

In January 2018, Italy opened the world's first VAR training centre at the Italian FA's headquarters in Coverciano. The idea was to make the referees more expert in the use of VAR, what it should be used for, what they don't need to check. So procedures such as if the linesman suspects offside, they should keep the flag down and let the play continue so that it can then be looked at afterwards.

How is it working now?

Recently there has been a lot of controversy because the referees on the pitch and the VAR are not getting it right - they are not interpreting the incidents correctly. The feeling is that the technology works well and the process is quicker; the problem is incorrect human interpretation. That makes fans even more annoyed.

It is not all bad: the system usually works very smoothly, it is applied correctly and is much quicker than it was.

VAR success rating: 7/10

Ligue 1

Football writer Jeremy Docteur:

How well did VAR work initially?

From its introduction in 2018, it had very bad press. Week in, week out there have been problems with it. The referees were making a lot of obvious mistakes but now there is even more criticism against referees than before we had VAR. It was supposed to avoid controversy and obvious errors but we have not got to that point yet.

What changes were made?

The LFP (French governing body) are not saying anything and I don't know where we are going with it - there is something going wrong every week. You can have similar incidents in two games, but not the same outcome. A lot of chairmen and managers have said it is not working well.

When you are in the stadium, it takes so long that there is no emotion and you are just waiting for the decision. You are not really sure if you can celebrate a goal. Sometimes they check quite far back in the build-up to the goal so there is always a risk that an infringement might have happened. Fans are not happy at all.

How is it working now?

This season is even worse than last season. It is good when it changes obvious errors and it is fair if a player is offside by two or three metres.

We are judging offsides badly. The point is not to overturn a goal if a player is one centimetre offside, they draw a line and rule out a goal if an armpit or chin is offside. Football is supposed to be a human sport, but there are huge stoppages and they are reviewing everything, including ridiculous calls for handball.

I was never pro-VAR but it's creating even more problems than before. They need to have a meeting and discuss this. A lot of players have come to to say it is not working well and we have to listen to the people actually playing the game.

VAR success rating: 3/10


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