How Will VAR Be Used at Euro 2024?

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How will VAR be used at Euro 2024

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has been part of the soccer scene at the highest level for less than a decade.

It was introduced in various leagues around the world in 2016 and 2017, including Major League Soccer, and was first used at senior international level at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

In the years since, VAR has been introduced to virtually all the top leagues across the world. It has also been in action at leading international tournaments.

Now, as soccer fans across Europe and beyond look forward to the European Championship finals in Germany, UEFA is planning the most sophisticated approach to the technology so far.

It hopes – as do supporters of the game – that the use of VAR at Euro 2024 will demonstrate that the system can enhance the experience of playing, officiating, and watching top-level soccer.

How will VAR be used at Euro 2024? Let’s answer that question in detail.

What is VAR?

The idea of using sophisticated video technology to assist referees gained traction in the early 2010s. One of the catalysts was Thierry Henry’s blatant handball, missed by match officials, which sealed 2010 World Cup qualification for France at the expense of the Republic of Ireland.

In the years since, the concept of VAR has been trialed and introduced in major soccer leagues and tournaments across the world, with varying degrees of acceptance and success.

Essentially, VAR is in place to detect and rectify “clear and obvious errors” by the on-pitch officials. VARs sit in front of a screen away from the stadium and study live pictures of the game. They can communicate directly with the referee and discuss incidents where the wrong call may have been made.

These may relate to the scoring or disallowing of a goal, the awarding of penalties, and disciplinary matters leading to yellow and red cards. They may suggest the referee visit a pitchside monitor to watch a replay of an incident and decide whether or not to change a decision.

The philosophy of VAR is “minimal interference, maximum benefit”. There have been tournaments where this has been observed, but there are fans in many countries – notably England – who are convinced that this sentiment has not been followed.

Will VAR at the Euros be Different From Other Competitions?

The reasoning behind the presence of VAR at Euro 2024 is the same as in any other tournament or league.

By using VAR, UEFA hopes to minimize the numbers of human errors made during the fast-moving hurly-burly of a soccer match, while not making a negative impact on the fans’ experience of enjoying the game.

However, officials at the tournament in Germany will be able to call on the assistance of several complementary pieces of technology to ensure a streamlined and accurate officiating process.

Goal-line technology, which tells a referee instantly whether or not a ball has crossed the line, will be in place. This is the least controversial technological advancement in soccer in recent years, since it delivers a purely objective yes-no decision.

Goal line / Goalkeeper
Image: Google/Steffen Prößdorf

The ball used at Euro 2024, which has been developed by adidas, will also play its part because it will contain a chip that should help with handball and offside decisions.

Finally, the addition of semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) will also be used to deliver accurate decisions much more quickly than is possible with purely manual intervention.

How will VAR be used at Euro 2024? It will be deployed in conjunction with these other technological innovations to create an optimal fan experience.

Semi-Automated Offside

SAOT promises to enhance considerably the way technology interacts with soccer, a sport whose appeal is rooted in its non-stop ebb and flow.

One of the biggest criticisms of VAR in nations – including England – has been the protracted delays to matches caused by VAR officials manually (and sometimes incorrectly), drawing lines across freeze-frame pictures in an effort to rule on an offside decision.

SAOT uses camera footage and tracking software to calculate players’ precise position at the moment a ball is kicked, and can instantly transmit a verdict to the VAR. It will be helped in this process by the microchip inside the match ball.

Semi-automated offside has been used at major tournaments including the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and it is in place in Italy’s Serie A. It will also be introduced to the English Premier League early in the 2024-25 season.

Handball

One of the most frustrating side-effects of the introduction of VAR has been the inconsistency with regard to the laws relating to handball.

When it comes to this element of the work of VAR, UEFA is confident the ball to be used at Euro 2024 will help to deliver faster and more accurate decisions relating to handball.

The Fussballliebe ball contains a microchip that can tell instantly when the ball has been touched. This should help the VAR to make faster decisions using live pictures and replays.

Foul Play

Referees on the pitch will still be the main arbiter of what constitutes foul play. However, the VAR at Euro 2024 will be able to alert the officials to any instances of violent conduct away from the ball, or out of the referee’s view.

It’s interesting to note that far fewer fouls were awarded across the tournament at Euro 2020. This is arguably because of the judicious use of VAR, and referees were less tolerant of players trying to win free-kicks by going to the floor under minimal contact.

VAR and the Euro 2024 Ball

One of the principal innovations designed to help VAR at Euro 2024 is the Fussballliebe ball designed by adidas. This will be an exceptional addition to all Euro 2024 stadiums and matches.

The microchip inside the ball can send real-time data to officials to help them to make more accurate, and speedier, decisions. An in-ball chip was also in use at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where the semi-automated offside technology was deemed to work successfully.

The ability to track the precise location of the ball and the soccer players playing with it, should hail a major step forward in the technological element of officiating such a fast-moving sport.

Euro 2024 Ball Sensor

How VAR Impacts Soccer

Soccer fans – and clubs – in different countries will have vastly different opinions about how much VAR impacts their sport, and how positive or otherwise that impact has been.

In many top leagues across Europe and beyond, the introduction of VAR and significant upgrades like semi-automated offside technology has been managed well. In addition, fans can appreciate the benefits of having an extra set of eyes on the action.

In England, however, teams and match-going fans continue to be frustrated at the impact of constant interruptions to the flow of the action, the length of time taken to make decisions – and the fact that dreadful decisions are still being made.

Things are so bad in the EPL that one club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, has called for a vote to abolish VAR completely in the league.

How will VAR be used at Euro 2024? It can be implemented professionally and efficiently, with little disruption to matches. Maybe the officials responsible for the shambles in England will learn a swift lesson and radically upgrade their performance in subsequent seasons.

How Was VAR Used at Euro 2020?

Supporters of the implementation of VAR can point to the last European Championship finals, which were held a year late because of the Covid-19 pandemic, as a shining example of how such technology can have a positive impact on a tournament.

Although semi-automated offside was not in place at the tournament, officiating with the help of VAR was seen as a success. There were fewer yellow cards than at the previous finals, and just 18 VAR corrections across the 18 matches.

Roberto Rosetti, UEFA’s chief of refereeing, said this was how VAR was supposed to work, as an aid to the officials and not an extra referee.

He said at the time: “We need to find the correct balance in relation to VAR intervention, because our target is to keep football like this.”

With the extra in-ball technology and SAOT in place, there are grounds for cautious optimism that the use of VAR at Euro 2024 will lead to a feast of soccer entertainment rather than controversy.

You can check out the best online soccer sites and keep on top of the Euro 2024 odds to bet on your favorite team.

FAQs

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Martin Booth
Sports & Casino Expert
Martin Booth
Sports & Casino Expert

Martin brings extensive experience from the gambling industry to the task of writing about global online sports betting and casino operations. He spent more than two decades in senior roles on the sports desks of UK national newspapers, then moved on to work in a B2C and B2B capacity for major gambling firms. He now runs an award-winning copywriting consultancy and has written extensively for sites such as Gambling.com, Bookies.com, Casino.org and Horseracing.co.uk. Martin has been interested in gambling for more than 50 years, ever since he had two shillings each way on Red Rum in the 1973 Grand National.