Thursday 01 September 2022, 12:00

Collina reflects on six years of VAR: “One of the biggest changes in football history"

  • 1 September marks six years since VAR was first used during international match

  • VAR was used at 2018 FIFA World Cup™

  • VAR to be assisted by semi-automated offside technology in Qatar

I remember the day very well. An historic day. I was not officially working for FIFA at the time, but I was in Bari with some other colleagues, to watch Italy against France and see Video Assistant Referees used for the first time in an international fixture. We were all very curious to see the outcome, but I must admit also a little bit nervous. It was the first time after all! I remember sitting in a small van outside of the stadium in Bari with the new FIFA President Gianni Infantino. This is where the technology was located, and I was showing Gianni how the VAR was working. How far we have come since then!

FIFA First "offline" VAR test in Bari - 09-Jan, 2016

That was on September 1, 2016, and in the six years since, VAR has not brought the “end of football”, as some reported at the time, but instead it is now part of the fabric of our sport, and it is hard to imagine football without it. I remember the first time we discussed such a technology, aiming to prevent incorrect match-changing decisions on the field. We were at an IFAB meeting in Belfast in 2014 and the idea was first considered. It seemed like a daydream at the time, but it took just two years to go from being just an idea to being implemented at the top level of football that night in Bari. Bari went well – I remember that there was an early decision that the referee Bjorn Kuipers was assisted by the VAR – but it was a major challenge to get ready in less than two years for the FIFA World Cup 2018™.

VAR was only being used in a few countries and there were very few match officials with huge experience of the technology. But FIFA Refereeing and the FIFA Department for Technology and Innovation worked extremely hard, and VAR at the FIFA World Cup 2018™ was a huge success, and it was the best possible answer to those who were waiting for failure. They were left disappointed. Gianni and I always had great confidence that VAR would be a success and bring more fairness to football matches. We have been proven right in this respect. However, since 2018 we have not been resting on our laurels.

VAR has been one of the biggest changes in the history of football, so it is understandable that it takes people time to comprehend and appreciate it. Encouraging players, coaches, fans and the media to better understand the technology and its uses has been a crucial goal for us over the past years. There is now much greater awareness across the world of the VAR process, and it has become much more widely accepted. However, improvements can always be made. We know this. We know that sometimes it still takes too long to make a final decision and we need to speed up this process. To this end, we will see Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) working with VAR and the referees in Qatar.

The new technology will make decisions faster, reducing the time needed to check if a goal was scored correctly, and video match officials will be automatically provided with images of every offside incident. A new graphics visualisation will also be broadcast on television and in-stadium to give fans a greater understanding of decisions. This technology will also make VAR more accurate, thanks to the “connected ball” that determines the moment of contact and the tracking system that determines the exact position of the players. FIFA, in line with the President’s Vision 2020-2023, continues to harness technology to assist the referee and make the game we love fairer and more transparent.

Improvement and development are two key stages for us. That is why we are also working on new grounds. For example: the future implementation of VAR Light – a system using a smaller number of cameras to suit leagues and competitions with smaller budgets – in the coming months will further increase the exposure to VAR across the world. At the moment some trials are ongoing. The tests are going well. And we are considering something which is even easier to use and less cost intense. Everything with the aim to allow the use of the technology by a larger number of FIFA member associations. With around 100 FIFA member associations and competitions organizers using it or which are about to use it, VAR becomes more and more truly global. We have come a long way in the six years from that little van in Bari and we are intensely proud of FIFA’s work behind the implementation of VAR.


Four replay operators select and provide the best camera angles.


The VAR watches the main camera on the upper monitor and checks or reviews incidents on the quad-split monitor. He is responsible for leading the VAR team and communicating with the referee on the field of play.


The AVAR1 concentrates on the main camera and keeps the VAR informed about live play if an incident is being checked or reviewed.


The AVAR3 focusses on the TV programme feed, assists the VAR in evaluating incidents and ensures good communication between the VAR and AVAR2 located at the offside station.


The AVAR2 is an assistant referee located at the offside station. He anticipates and checks any potential offside situations to speed up the VAR check and review process.