The ultimate guide to VAR in the Premier League - all your questions answered

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Marcotti & Laurens hit back at VAR critics (1:44)

Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens tell Alexis Nunes why some Premier League fans' criticism of VAR is nonsense. (1:44)

Like it or not, Video Assistant Referees are here to stay. The International Football Association Board, football's lawmaker, has set out the protocol and this is how it will be applied in the Premier League.

JUMP TO: Handball | Offside | Check and review protocol | Red and yellow cards | Penalties

GENERAL

What will the VAR review?
- Goal/no goal
- Penalty/no penalty
- Direct red card (not second yellow card/caution)
- Mistaken identity (when the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player)

What will it not review?
- Any yellow card (including second yellow card leading to red)
- Any free kick offence outside the box (other than red card offence)

Can a player or manager request a review?
No, all incidents are automatically checked by the VAR.

Does the VAR make the final decision?
No, this will always be taken by the match referee. The VAR may advise the referee to change his decision, but the final call must always be the referee's.

Who is in the VAR room?
In the Premier League there will be a lead official, who will make judgements on all reviews. There will also be an assistant official, who continues to watch the live game while the lead handles a review. The third person is the Hawk-eye operative, who controls the technology and is independent of the decision-making process.

When does the VAR check an incident?
Every moment is watched for an infringement or missed incident and all goals are checked.

What does "clear and obvious" mean?
If the referee's description of an reviewed incident does not accurately match replays, it may be considered he has made a "clear and obvious" error. This is grounds for a decision to be reversed.

Which replays does the VAR watch in slow motion?
Slow-mo is only used to judge the point of contact on a foul or handball, or where the place an offence took place. Over-riding judgements will always be made from real-time replay.

Can a goal be disallowed for an offence in the build-up?
Offside and fouls by an attacking player will be checked and any offence will see the goal ruled out and a free kick awarded to the defending team. The VAR can also check for ball out of play.

Does the same apply after a penalty has been awarded?
Yes, any offence prior to the award of a spot kick is checked, including whether it took place inside or outside the penalty area.

What about a restart, like a corner or goal-kick?
It's against VAR protocol for any standard restart to be reviewed (the exception is a penalty kick). Decisions on such incidents can only be made by the on-pitch referee. So, on a goal-kick the VAR cannot rule on encroachment by an attacking player, nor can it rule on the ball being within the quadrant on a corner, if it results in a goal.

What if a valid goal has been scored but the ref blew his whistle?
The old adage of you "play to the whistle" comes in here. If the referee has already blown before the ball has crossed the line there is nothing that VAR can do. Play is dead from the moment the whistle blows, regardless of the referee's decision on a foul or offside being correct.

Can a match be called off if VAR stops working?
A match is not invalidated by malfunctioning VAR or if an incorrect decision is made.

Should fans in stadiums be better informed?
This is a work in progress. Messages are displayed on big screens or electronic advertising boards and, in some instances, replays are used to explain decisions. But these are controlled by the home club's staff, so could be subject to delay or incomplete information.

Does a VAR review take too much time out of the game?
The ball is only in play for an average of 60 minutes per game, so most reviews will be completed when it is naturally out of play.

Is VAR aiming for 100% accuracy?
In 2018-19, the Premier League calculated that 82% of key match-changing incidents were correct and it hopes, with the help of VAR, to raise that number to around 96%. The fact that some decisions are subjective, though, means that 100% accuracy is impossible.

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1:42

Premier League takeaways - Pochettino now a fan of VAR?

Craig Burley picks the winners and losers from the Premier League's second weekend and delves into Mauricio Pochettino's love-hate relationship with VAR.

HANDBALL

What is going on with handball?
The IFAB changed the law for this season to try and eliminate uncertainty when a goal is scored. This means that any contact with the hand/arm of an attacking player that leads to or creates a goal -- even if accidental -- is against the laws of the game.

Surely a referee missing a slight offence is not a "clear and obvious" error?
Like offside, it has been decided that handball leading to a goal is a binary decision. If it happens, the goal will be disallowed.

We have seen this twice in the Premier League already: Leander Dendoncker of Wolves was denied at Leicester after a Willy Boly handball and Man City had an injury-time winner against Tottenham chalked off after the ball brushed Aymeric Laporte's arm.

What is different if the ball comes off a defender's arm?
A defending player can still be adjudged to have accidentally handled the ball, so it is not automatically an offence, creating a two-tier handball law.

Will VAR be strict on defensive handballs?
The Premier League says nothing will change with its interpretation of handballs by defenders, so do not expect a glut of penalties as seen in FIFA and UEFA competitions.

For instance, the penalty given to Liverpool after the ball struck the arm of Tottenham's Moussa Sissoko in the Champions League final would not have been awarded in the Premier League.

So this is not VAR's fault?
VAR is purely enforcing this new law.

OFFSIDE

Is offside judged as a "clear and obvious" error?
Offside, like the ball crossing the line, is considered a binary and objective decision. For example, a player will be adjudged offside even if only his toes are in front of the last defender.

On the season's opening weekend, Manchester City had a goal disallowed at West Ham after Raheem Sterling's shoulder was shown to be just ahead of the last defender.

Does someone draw lines on a TV screen?
The Premier League (and FIFA) uses Hawk-eye 3D imaging technology, which judges offside by the part of a player's body furthest forward (excluding arms). Several cameras are used to judge the offside line.

How does the VAR decide which frame to use?
The first point of contact of the passing act is key, not the point of release. The Hawk-eye operative will select three frames for the VAR, who will choose the one that best represents that first point. From this frame, the 3D imaging is activated.

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1:43

Darke: Offside rule needs to be tweaked to 'clear daylight'

After VAR's debut in the Premier League, Ian Darke says the offside rule is what needs to be changed going forward.

How is the offside decision made?
Once the frame has been selected, the Hawk-eye official will, in consultation with the VAR, mark reference points on the relevant attacking and defenders. Markers will be placed on the front foot, shoulder and possibly the knee depending on each player's stance.

These points are then applied to the imaging software, which will produce a blue line for the defending player and a red line for the attacking player. If any of the blue line can be seen behind the red line, then the attacking player is in an offside position.

Is VAR 100% accurate for offside?
Present technology means it cannot be 100%, but it does allow officials to make a more informed decision than by using the naked eye in real time.

Also, cameras used at football matches are not of sufficient quality to be completely accurate, with some claims there should be a margin of error of around 13cm.

So why not use a margin for error on tight calls?
MLS and the A-League have chosen not to use calibrated lines or Hawk-eye technology, instead preferring the naked eye to analyse the freeze frame while looking for anything they categorise as "clearly and obviously wrong."

The IFAB is to discuss the possibility of applying "clear and obvious" to some degree when it next meets in March, but there will be no change to VAR protocol before June 1, 2020.

Why not look for "daylight" between defender and attacker?
This would give a huge advantage to the attacking team. Moreover, the "marginal point" would just go further back and players would still be offside by millimetres.

In addition, the position of the camera would be crucial. Only if the camera angle is directly in line with the offside incident could any decision be made on "daylight". It is completely unworkable and there would be no consistency.

Is the assistant referee instructed to keep his flag down?
If the call is exceptionally tight, the assistant can raise the flag when the attacking move ends. This could, for instance, mean a corner is cancelled and offside given. Similarly, referees have the right to let play continue if it is felt there could be an attacking advantage.

This differs to UEFA and FIFA competitions, in which flags are kept down unless a player is clearly offside. This means play can run on unnecessarily.

CHECK AND REVIEW PROTOCOL

What is the difference between a check and a review?
Check: The VAR watches the replay of an incident before allowing play to continue. Most checks are completed so quickly that players and fans are not aware they have happened.

Review: The referee might delay the restart of play -- signalled by placing his finger to his ear -- while the VAR investigates a possible offence. The referee might also watch the incident on a pitch-side monitor.

How does the referee signal a decision has been changed?
A rectangular TV signal is made with both hands before the official points to where the infringement took place.

Is there a time limit for a review?
No, accuracy is deemed more important.

When should the referee stop play for a full review?
If a clear incident has been spotted, such as an obvious red card or penalty, play will be stopped when the ball is in a neutral area. Otherwise, it will continue until the ball is dead.

So could Team A score a goal, only for it to be disallowed and Team B awarded a penalty?
Play would revert back to the point at which the offence occurred, so it is possible for there to be a two-goal swing.

In a February 2019 Serie A game, the VAR ruled out a goal that would have given SPAL a 2-1 lead in the 79th minute. Instead, Fiorentina got a penalty and went on to win 4-1.

How far back in play can a review go after a goal is scored?
This decision is based on the Attacking Phase of Play, which begins when the scoring team starts the attacking move toward goal and ends when it is completed. However, an attacking move can be considered to have reset to create a new phase if the defence has regrouped.

Last season, Liverpool scored against Southampton when Mohamed Salah was offside from the first pass forward. However, play carried on for some time after this point and the Saints defend would have reset. Therefore, this goal would not have been ruled out even though there was an earlier offence.

What is the process for a subjective review?
- The VAR advises the referee that a check is taking place for a possible infringement
- The on-pitch official is asked to describe the incident why he came to his decision
- The VAR watches the incident in real-time speed to judge the referee's view
- If the VAR considers a true and accurate description of the incident has been given, the check ends and play continues
- If the VAR thinks a "clear and obvious" error has been made, he can advise that the decision is changed. However, he referee does not have to accept and can stay with his own decision

What is the "high bar" for decisions in the Premier League?
The Premier League does not want the pace of play to be affected, so will not micro-analyse subjective reviews; if a mistake is not immediately apparent, a decision is unlikely to be reversed.

In Manchester City vs. Tottenham, a penalty was not awarded for an alleged foul on City's Rodri by Erik Lamela of Spurs. On-pitch referee Michael Oliver told the VAR that Rodri had gone to ground, rather than forced down, and the review concluded no clear and obvious error had been made.

When will a referee use the pitch-side review monitor?
The Premier League believes referees work as a team and wants to limit occasions when the lead official watches an incident alone, so protocol states that the pitch-side review is not mandatory.

Monitors will only be used in exceptional cases, such as when an incident has not been seen, although the referee can insist on a pitch-side review for any incident, rather just take advice from the VAR.

Outside England, UEFA, FIFA and many domestic leagues use pitch-side review for the majority of subjective decisions. However, factual decisions on offside and ball out of play are made by the VAR. Feedback from officials will determine the future of the policy.

How long should a review take?
The Premier League says that the average time for a full VAR review with an overturned decision is approximately 84 seconds. With regard to checks, there is an average delay of 22 seconds across an entire game.

Is lost time added on?
The referee will add any time used for a review to the end of the half.

When is it too late to review an incident?
Once play has restarted. The referee should pause the game if a review is being conducted, except for a potential sending-off offence relating to violent conduct, spitting, biting or extremely offensive, insulting and/or abusive gestures.

What is a referee blows his whistle before the ball goes into net?
This is a basic rule of football -- you play to the whistle. Once the whistle has gone, play is dead. There is nothing VAR could do to award a goal.

RED AND YELLOW CARDS

Can VAR ever lead to a yellow card?
VAR cannot review a yellow card, but it can award one. For instance, if a player has deceived the referee to win a penalty. Also, any player who excessively appeals for the use of VAR -- including substitutes -- can be cautioned.

Can a player get a yellow card following a red card review?
A review for a direct red card can lead to a player's punishment being downgraded to a booking. For example, if there is a review for a high tackle that the VAR believes could be a red card, the referee could decide it is only worth yellow.

Can a red card be rescinded as well as shown?
If the VAR advises that a player should not have been sent off, the sanction can be downgraded to a yellow or rescinded entirely.

If a decision is overturned, are yellow and red cards quashed?
Only for denying a goalscoring opportunity or the stopping of a promising attack. Any other cards shown between the infringement and the stoppage of play would stand (dissent, for instance).

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1:37

VAR overshadows Leicester's comeback over Tottenham

Alejandro Moreno has no problem with VAR overturning a goal that would've given Tottenham a 2-0 lead over Leicester. Spurs went on to lose the game 2-1.

PENALTIES

When will VAR get involved in a penalty kick?
It will only check for an encroaching player who gets directly involved in the outcome -- after a save, or rebound off the post, for example -- and to check that a player has not stuttered his run directly before taking the kick.

Sergio Aguero missed a penalty for Man City against West Ham, but a retake was ordered because Declan Rice encroached and was first to the rebound. Had a non-encroaching player been first to the ball, the kick would not have been retaken.

What about a goalkeeper staying on his line?
The revised law states that a goalkeeper must have one foot on the line when the penalty is struck and was stringently enforced at the FIFA Women's World Cup.

UEFA, the Premier League and the Bundesliga subsequently decided that the law will only be enforced if it is blatantly flouted, which means we are unlikely to see VAR ordering a retake in major competitions. However, on Aug. 21, the IFAB insisted that leagues with VAR must enforce the Laws of the Game, making specific reference to penalty kicks.

This rule will not be enforced if a player misses the target or hits the woodwork. It will only apply to a goalkeeper save.

A penalty is awarded but a review overturns the decision. How does play restart?
In the case of no foul, with an uncontested dropped ball to the goalkeeper. If there was an attacking infringement in the build-up, like offside or a foul, play restarts with a free kick to the defending team.