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  • Writer's picturePenny McNees

VAR: What is it?

This season, the National Women’s Soccer League is introducing the video assistant referee, or what’s commonly known as VAR. Now the question is: what even is VAR?

VAR is a tool that officials can use to make in-game decisions. When the VAR team flags a mistake or missed incident by the officiating crew, they can get in contact with the officials and have them conduct a video review of the incident. Based on that review, the correct call can be made. When the officiating crew goes through a video review, they are seeing game footage from different angles to help make the right call. Videos can be slowed down in order for the officials to see the play accurately.

VAR was first used in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The technology was used in 29 out of 64 matches, with 17 decisions being overturned as a result. The use of VAR was largely seen as a success, with many praising its ability to reduce errors and increase fairness in the game. However, there were some concerns about the length of time it took to make decisions and the potential for the technology to disrupt the flow of the game. Despite these concerns, VAR is expected to be used in future World Cup tournaments and has expanded to other professional soccer leagues including the English Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A.

Jun Endo / Photo from @weareangelcity

VAR has already made an impact in the NWSL in the opening weeks. Angel City’s home opener against NJ/NY Gotham F.C. saw the first call overturned due to VAR in the league. In the 15th minute, Angel City’s Jun Endo launched a shot past Gotham goalkeeper Abby Smith, putting Angel City up 2-0 over Gotham. But that was short-lived, as referee Elijio Arreguin waved off the goal after reviewing a foul on Gotham’s Kelley O’Hara committed by Angel City’s Dani Weatherholt before the goal.

Goals by Gotham’s Midge Purce and Lynn Williams allowed for Gotham to bring home the win, 2-1, over Angel City, a scoreline that would have been 2-2, if it was not for VAR overturning Endo’s goal.

Full time score, Lynn Williams and Midge Purce hugging / Photo from @GothamFC

On April 15th, during a match between OL Reign and the San Diego Wave, a review of a possible penalty kick was conducted. Christen Westphal of the Wave obviously had her hand on Tziarra King’s face of the Reign, but even after review, a penalty kick was not awarded to the Reign. The Reign ended up still winning the match 1-0 by a goal from Olivia Van der Jagt.

On May 6th, Jordyn Huitema's goal of the OL Reign was disallowed after the VAR review. The goal was disallowed because VAR indicated that Huitema had a hand ball leading up to the goal. While the call was not in favor of the Reign, players and fans alike, OL Reign did pull off a 2-0 win over the Houston Dash. Veronica Lastko scored in the 53’ minute, and Huitema scored in the 68’ minute.

VAR is a great addition to soccer and the NWSL. It helps referees make more accurate decisions and reduces the chance of mistakes. VAR also holds referees more accountable with the calls being made and can limit inaccurate calls, which the NWSL has had issues with in the past. However, it can be frustrating when a decision takes too long to make or is still unclear even after using VAR. VAR can also slow down the game and interrupt the flow of play, which can be frustrating for players and fans. Overall, VAR will play a huge roll in the NWSL this season, as it has already made an impact in games.

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