How fans stay informed about VAR decisions
During the 52 matches of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019™ in France 535 incidents were checked by the Video Assistant Referees and only 29 of the referee’s decisions had to be corrected after reviewing them.
The time it took to review an incident and to come to the correct decision was 1 minute and 33 seconds on average. During that time football fans in the stadium, watching on TV or following the match on FIFA.com were informed about the different steps of the check and review process through the commentator or VAR-specific graphics and messages. Those messages and graphics included information about the reason for the review and the outcome of the review.
How exactly did that information make it from the Video Operation Room in Paris, where the VARs were operating from, to football fans around the world?
VAR Information System
For full transparency and to make sure delays in play due to VAR checks and reviews are not causing any confusion among footballs fans, FIFA has developed a VAR Information System for broadcasters, commentators, giant screen operators and FIFA’s Live Blog. For each match, a FIFA staff member informs all relevant parties about the different steps of the process and alerts them when the VAR is taking action.
The person providing the information is located in the video operation room right behind the VAR team and has access to the audio from the referee communication system as well as the camera angles the VAR is looking at.
He or she uses a tablet and bespoke software to send all VAR related information. The job requires specific training as well as a good understanding of football and refereeing matters. In addition, the person operating the tablet should be able to understand the language the match officials are speaking.
Live updates for commentators
When the VAR is checking an incident the commentators receive a message on their commentary information system, for example, “Checking for possible penalty, possible foul”.
Graphic templates for TV and giant screen
At the same time the commentators receive VAR related information, graphics with corresponding messages are provided automatically to the TV director and the giant screen operator.
Live update on FIFA.com
Last but not least, a message on FIFA’s Live Blog is triggered to inform the fans following the match online about the check. If the referee changes her or his decision based on information received by the VAR a new message and graphic is provided to all involved parties.
Over 140 messages and almost 50 TV graphics
There are over 140 different messages that can be sent to the commentators, simple messages like “Checking foul”, but also more complex messages like “Checking for possible handball by attacking player leading up to penalty situation” or “Goal disallowed, Encroachment by attacking player. Penalty to be retaken”. This allows the commentators to tell the TV viewers what is happening inside the VOR, why a decision is being reviewed and why play might be delayed.
For TV and the giant screen there are almost 50 different VAR-specific graphic templates available. The VAR Information System ensures that the right graphic is selected by providing only relevant graphic templates to the production team and only when they are needed. FIFA differentiates between three different kinds of messages and graphics:
1. Check Checking messages and graphics are used for serious checks that will most likely lead to a delay in play. The referee would usually point to the ear to signal that the VAR is checking the situation. 2. Review Review messages and graphics are used when the referee decides to go to an on-field review and review the footage in the Referee Review Area. The referee makes the official VAR Review sign (outlining a TV). 3. Outcome Outcome messages and graphics inform about the final decision of the referee.