This weekend marks a groundbreaking moment for Major League Soccer: the beginning of the use of video review in MLS. But that’s left fans with questions about how it could change the game they love. So what is video review, and how will it affect the game?
Many know of video review as the commonly-used acronym VAR, but that actually refers to a person, the Video Assistant Referee. It’s a newly-added fifth official that will be in a booth away from the field, reviewing the action from all available video angles to ensure correct refereeing decisions are made. They will be watching the broadcast feed – the same video viewers see on their televisions – trying to find missed calls.
If the Video Assistant Referee sees an obvious mistake, they can send a message to the center referee to hold up play until all available evidence is seen and they can make sure the correct call is made. Once play restarts, the window to make a video review closes.
That doesn’t mean that every call will be up for scrutiny. Video review will only be used for what referees call “high-leverage” situations: goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity (if the referee accidentally calls a foul against the wrong person).
The center referee still makes the final decision. The referee can reject the Video Assistant Referee’s recommendation for a review, or stop play to see the video on a field-side monitor. Once they see the video, the center ref can then decide whether to change the call or not.
That’s it! Many fans have asked how this will affect the game on a large scale, and whether this will turn MLS matches into a stop-start affair. The man leading the implementation of video review in MLS, referee Howard Webb, is assuring that won’t happen. He says over the course of their testing, there were video reviews once every three games on average, adding about a minute to the length of a game.
Make sure you’re tuned in to Atlanta United’s social channels and the live play-by-play on the Official Atlanta United App. That’s where all these decisions will be relayed to the fans, as well as the in-stadium announcer.