25+ VAR Statistics [To Review in 2020]

by Stevan Plavšić
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If you look at VAR statistics, you will be shocked at how widely the opinion is divided. Some openly hate the technology, others think it should be used in a different way, and some are convinced it’s beneficial for the game.

Short for video assistant referee, the concept is yet to be globally accepted but it’s already in use in some of the most coveted leagues, including the English Premier League, the Italian Serie A, and the German Bundesliga. 

In this VAR report, we’ll have a look at some most intriguing VAR stats like the cost of using the technology, how it has affected the game and more.

But first, let’s get started with…

Fascinating VAR Statistics:

  • 13% of viewers do not support VAR.
  • The average VAR intervention time is 55 seconds.
  • It takes about 20 seconds to complete a VAR review.
  • The majority of VAR incidents (57.4%) are related to goals and penalties.
  • The cost of using VAR is $6.5 million for a single season.
  • In 2018, 86% of people were in favor of VAR.
  • 69.1% of games reviewed by IFAB did not need VAR intervention.

1. VAR was conceived in the early 2010s

(source: Wired)

First introduced back in the early 2010s, the concept took years to gain traction. It was developed under the direction of the Royal Netherlands Football Association. 

Not many associations or experts were interested in it right away on account of some reservations regarding its reliability and impact on the game.

2. The first live trial of VAR was in 2016

(Source: IFAB)

Like any other system, the VAR technology was extensively tested before experts started to trust it. Mock trials started way back in the 12/13 season of Eredivisie. Being associated with Netherlands’ top league gave the VAR system a major boost.

After years of testing, the first live trial took place in July 2016 during a friendly match between FC Eindhoven and PSV. The game had little to offer in terms of controversy and VAR didn’t come into play, at ll. 

The next trial came the following month on the other side of the Atlantic with a United Soccer League (USL) match.

The system was used twice during a match between two MLS reserve sides. The referee reviewed two fouls by consulting with VAR before ultimately deciding to issue a yellow and a red card in the incidents

3. KNVB started a petition for VAR in 2014

(Source: IFAB)

The Royal Dutch Football Association a.k.a KNVB took a bold step in 2014. They started to petition the International Football Association Board to make changes to football regulations so that the system can be applied more extensively. The end goal being: football to accept VAR – a change for the better.

This process took them over two years but IFAB finally approved trials in 2016. This opened the door for the system’s full implementation two years later. 

4. VAR became part of FIFA in 2018

(Source: WashingtonPost)

In a historical step, FIFA decided to officially announce the big VAR news. An announcement was made during the FIFA Council meeting held in Bogota on 16 March 2018. 

As a result, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia became the first competition to make use of the system in full, meaning all venues and matches. 

The World Cup was the ultimate test for VAR and the technology passed it successfully. This gave VAR a major image boost and more leagues and promotions started to show interest in the technology.

5. PL clubs, including Tottenham and Man City, were against VAR

(Source: The Guardian)

Prior to the 18-19 season, the Premier League clubs got together and voted against using the technology in the upcoming season.

Reps from all 20 teams discussed the system’s potential with members of the English FA. They eventually decided more tests are required before they could add the technology to the world’s most popular football league.

However, things took a turn the next season. The clubs agreed that Premier League VAR would be a welcome change. And that’s how for the first time in the history of the Premier League, the video assistant referee came into play.

Some teams, though, were still against the idea of implementing the system. These included the likes of Maurizio Pochettino’s Spurs and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

6. Using VAR for a single season costs $6.2 million 

(Source: UCP IP Unit)

VAR technology uses a patent of Sony’s Hawk-Eye Innovations. It allows the company to benefit financially from this invention by charging licensing fees which are expected to be $2.2 million per season.

Sports bodies like FIFA are willing to foot the bill to make the games more authentic and fun. The VAR system improves decision making, therefore helps broadcasters create quality content. 

Hawk-Eye Innovations holds a 20-year patent and has also taken steps to maximize how it can profit from the technology, which is used in over 20 sports. The company offers this service to more than 90 countries.

Clubs in developing countries including Brazil and South Africa have rejected VAR due to cost concerns. Football bodies have also been rumored to be looking for lucrative sponsorship deals for VAR breaks to help them cover costs.

7. About 86% of viewers support VAR in football

(Source: Statista)

A 2018 French survey measured the general attitudes of the public towards video arbitration technology. 

The results showed that 86% of respondents were in favor of using the system during games, 13% were against the idea, and about 1% did not have an answer. 

This survey was conducted before the 2018 World Cup and it is believed that the perspective of today’s audience is even more positive towards VAR.

8. 69.1% of VAR games did not need VAR replays 

(Source: IFAB)

The International Football Association Board studied a total of 927 soccer games that took place internationally in 20 national authorities. According to the results published by the board, about 69.1% of the matches studied did not need VAR replays.

9. About 5.5% of VAR matches required two or more reviews

(Source: IFAB)

Only 53 of the matches, which equals to 5.5% of the total games, required more than one review. While such figures question the importance of the system, even a single decision can impact the game.  

The report suggests that technology has a decisive or huge impact in about 9% of football matches. In addition to this, about 25% of matches saw a positive impact. 

10. VAR penalty and goals checks account for 57.4% of total VAR intervention

(Source: IFAB)

VAR has four major duties. To check each goal and possible penalty situation, to review red card situations and help the referee in case of mistaken identity.

The IFAB report highlights that goal and penalty incidents are responsible for more than half of the cases where VAR comes into play. 

For comparison, red card incidents make up about 42.1% of total VAR cases and the percentage of mistaken identity cases is negligible.

11. There is an average of 1 obvious error in every 3 events

(Source: IFAB)

Contrary to popular belief, most checks can be completed quickly without having to pause the game. This means the system does not impact the flow of the game, which was a big concern before the system had been fully implemented. 

This figure shows the importance of the system because only 1 error is said to be obvious and clear. Moreover, such errors were usually cleared in 18 out of a total of 19 matches played. This number is encouraging given the chances of human errors in decision-making, perception, communication, and technology.

It is believed that with time, this will improve even more.

12. The initial accuracy rate for reviewable decisions is 93.0%

(Source: IFAB)

Video assistant referee statistics prove that decision-making quality in match-changing categories of reviewable decisions is already pretty high.

The accuracy of reviewable decisions has increased by about 5.8% due to the introduction of this technology to reach a high of 98.8%. This figure is also pretty impressive as it is not possible to reach a 100% score due to subjectivity and perception issues. 

13. VAR reviews can be completed in 20 seconds

(Source: IFAB)

While football associations had concerns because of having to interrupt the game to use the VAR technology, trials and real-life examples show that almost all checks can take place without pausing the game. 

Spectators and viewers can easily tell when a check is in progress by looking at the referee’s actions. The referee will press a finger to the ear when a check is going on. Similarly, the referee will move to sketch out an air-TV if they call for a replay or review.

Statistics that contain a VAR table show that a check only takes about 20 seconds on average. On the other hand, VAR reviews only take about 35 seconds on average. 

This helps save a lot of time when we compare it to ‘on-field’ reviews that take an average of 68 seconds. The technology, therefore, cuts that time in half. 

14. The average VAR intervention time in a match is 55 seconds

(Source: IFAB)

The technology does result in some intervention but it is nothing when compared to usual events seen in a match including:

  • Corner kicks — about 3 minutes 57 secs
  • Goal kicks — about 5 minutes 46 secs
  • Free kicks — about 8 minutes 51 secs
  • Throw-ins — about  7 minutes 2 secs
  • Making substitutions — about 2 minutes 57 secs 

With time, it is believed that fans, players, and management will get used to the technology and it may even help keep spectators happy as they will have more faith in the system and know that nobody is going to cheat in a game.

15. Manchester United has benefitted the most from VAR

(Source: Planet Football)

If you are wondering about which teams have benefited the most from VAR, then Manchester United is the answer. It’s the only top-six side team to have enjoyed the benefits of the technology as it has been awarded more penalties or goals than it has had taken away during the season.

On the other hand, Jürgen Klopp’s side Liverpool had a huge number of penalties or goals taken away during the season. The scenario is the same for some other popular names like Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham, and Chelsea.

But hey, at the end of the day, VAR is here to keep the balance and remove the wrong decisions.

16. How Many Decisions Has VAR Gotten Wrong? 

(Source: Independent)

While the exact number is unknown, VAR has overturned a total of four correct on-field decisions by Premier League referees during the season’s first 12 rounds of matches. 

Incorrect decisions include a disallowed goal and an offside goal. The number may be higher when you take into other leagues but that VAR news data isn’t currently available.

This created a major VAR controversy that took efforts to die down.

How has VAR affected football?

Is VAR ruining football? No, it isn’t. 

It may appear so if you haven’t been following football or if you do not know how the first season of VAR has worked.

VAR is simple, it is designed to reduce errors and VAR football statistics indicate that it’s impressive. You can look at the VAR index to understand the impact VAR has had on football and why it should be globally accepted.

FAQ:

Q: How has VAR affected football?
A: VAR has mostly affected goals in football, so far. Each scored goal is checked by the technology for an offside, foul play and other factors that may lead to the goal being disallowed. This had lead to a lot of cases where the player, his team and fans celebrate a goal only to have it disallowed by VAR.

Q: Is VAR ruining football?
A: A lot of football fans, former and current players, and managers will definitely say that VAR is killing football. We are yet to see the long-term effect of VAR on the game. One thing is for sure — the game will never be the same.

Q: Should football have VAR?
A: Yes. The idealistic purpose of the technology is to only be used to reverse “clear and obvious” errors. The video assistant referee system should not be debatable when it comes to offsides. At the end of the day, there are a lot of subjective decisions in football, so the referee will always have the final word.

Q: Which countries use VAR?
A: Here’s a list of all countries that currently use VAR in their domestic competitions (excluding those that only use it in finals):

  • Australian A-League
  • Brazilian Serie A
  • Belgian Pro League
  • Chilean Primera Division
  • Chinese Super League
  • Columbian Primera A
  • Croatian First League
  • Czech First League
  • Danish Superliga
  • Egyptian Premier League
  • English Premier League
  • French Ligue 1
  • German Bundesliga
  • German Bundesliga 2
  • Greek Super League 1
  • Israeli Premier League
  • Italian Serie A
  • Italian Serie B
  • Korean K League 1
  • Korean K League 2
  • Mexican Liga MX
  • Moroccan Botola Pro 1
  • Dutch Eredivisie
  • Paraguayan Primera Division
  • Polish Ekstraklasa
  • Portuguese Primeira Liga
  • Qatar Stars League
  • Russian Premier League
  • Saudi Professional League
  • Spanish La Liga
  • Spanish Segunda Division
  • Swiss Super League
  • Thai League 1
  • Turkish Super Lig
  • UAE Pro League
  • Ukrainian Premier League
  • Major League Soccer

Sources:

1. Wired
2. IFAB
3. IFAB
4. WashingtonPost
5. The Guardian
6. UCP IP Unit
7. Statista
8. IFAB
9. IFAB
10. IFAB
11. IFAB
12. IFAB
13. IFAB
14. IFAB
15. Planet Football
16. Independent
17. Pro Referees

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