How VAR has changed the enjoyment for fans in the English premier league

A person holding an ipad with the VAR logo on it
VAR on Tablet During Football Match – Video Assistant Referee” by footycomimages is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

What is Video Assistant Referee?

VAR (Video assistant referee) is a system that is used by match officials in a football game. It is used to review incidents within a match and its goal is to make the correct decision after reviewing the game play and advising the referee what decision to make. The system is set up behind the scenes and is usually run and reviewed by three different officials. The referee can also look to review incidents if advised by VAR officials by going to the small screen that is located pitch side and they will be able to see what the VAR officials are looking at. This allows a second opinion on an incident if it is not clear.

What have the fans got to say about VAR?

VAR was first introduced to the English premier league in the 2019/20 season. It has created many controversial and crucial moments to the game since its existence and has affected the outcome of several games to the English Premier teams, but how has VAR affected the fans that come to support their teams? VAR has changed decisions in a game of football that have left the players playing on the pitch furious, but how has it affected fans and changed the enjoyment of watching their team play from the stands. In June 2021, the FSA (Football Supporters Association) surveyed more than 30,000 football fans. The outcome of this was revealed that “95% of those who had experienced VAR in-stadium and 94% who had watched matches on TV said that VAR had made watching football less enjoyable”. This shows that VAR had a negative impact fairly quickly after the introduction of the technology. The survey also revealed that “Just over three quarters of fans (77%) were of the opinion that referees needed to take the time to more clearly explain VAR decisions to those in the stadium”. This survey was conducted in 2021 and I feel there is still no improvement in the way that the refereeing is handled when VAR is in use. To change this issue and improve it, I would let the fans and players in the stadium see what the VAR officials are looking at. I feel this can easily be done as viewers back home can see what the VAR officials are looking at as well as the referee on the pitch if they go to look at their pitch side screen. Another question within the survey revealed that “a proportion (78%) agreed that other sports are better suited to the use of video referees/umpires than football is”. I personally don’t agree with this, I think that football does suit VAR but just isn’t using it in the best manner it can. An example of where I believe VAR is reaching somewhat near its full potential is in rugby where, when they are reviewing a decision, the play appears on the screen so that the whole stadium and players can see what is happening. The whole game, fans watching rugby at home from the television can also hear what the referee is saying the whole game due to them being Mic’d up, and there are also earpieces that fans watching in the stadium can buy that lets them hear the referee the same as viewers back home whilst in the stands. If rugby can do this, why can’t football? If the English premier league brought these additions into the game, I believe there will be less controversy about VAR.

Cummins, G. (2021, June 2). Survey: Fans say they will attend fewer games because of Var. Football Supporters’ Association.
Fans cheering in a football stadium

Through the 24th – 25th of April 2023, Ipsos interviewed 1000 fans from the range of ages 18-75. After reviewing all of the statistics brought in, Ipsos then published an article on the 18th of May. One of the highlight outcomes of these interviews was, “Just over half of football fans (54%) say they’d be more likely to support it if a time limit were to be introduced”. I agree with this statement because whilst watching the English premier league games on the television, the official can take a while when looking at decisions and in the background of these time periods when the officials are looking at something, you can hear the fans in the background whistling and getting louder as they show their frustration towards how long the officiating crew is taking. The decisions that take the longest are usually to see if a goal that has been scored is offside or not. This is because the VAR officials need to carefully draw a line from the last point of the defender and look at all the different angles to determine whether or not the goal is going to be ruled out or not. To make this progress better and more efficient, I would suggest that if it is taking so long to determine if it’s offside or not and the VAR officials keep adjusting the line as it is so close, that goal should be given because if you are looking at the replay on technology and don’t have a decision straight away, I think it is only fair for the team that scored to get the point. I also believe that if there is a clear offside or onside goal that they are checking, the officials should not be taking so long to make the decision as it so obvious. This frustrates the fans back home watching as they can see what the VAR officials are looking at and can clearly see whether it is onside or not, yet the officials still take so long to look at it. Then this frustrates the fans in the stadium as well, because they don’t know what is happening or how close a call is as there is no screens in the stadium for them to see what is getting reviewed.

Hyams-Parish, J., Whyte-Smith, H., & Moser, J. (2023, May 18). 2 in 3 British football fans support the usage of VAR in football – ipsos. 2 in 3 British football fans support the usage of VAR in football.

Incident that have happened with VAR

One incident that has happened recently that had a huge controversy towards VAR was a league game involving Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC. The incident took place on the 30th of September 2023, On the 33rd minute of the game Liverpool player Luis Diaz scored a goal which was ruled offside straight away by the linesman on the field. The game then stopped for the goal to be reviewed by VAR. Viewers back home could see that the goal was actually onside with the lines the VAR technology has on the replay, due to the opponent’s leg playing him onside. After VAR review, the final decision that got communicated to ref to make on the pitch was for the goal to remain offside. This caused confusion with the commentators of the game and viewers back home as that was an obvious incorrect decision. After the game, VAR released a statement saying that there was a miscommunication between the VAR officials and the Referee on the pitch as the VAR told the Referee that the on-field decision should stand, thinking that the on -field decision was given as a goal. After the referee called that Diaz’s goal was offside, the play then started again which means that they can’t pull the play back to say they made a mistake as the game already resumed. This rightly so, made the fans of Liverpool FC and all of the Liverpool players and coaches furious. I believe that if these kinds of mistakes are being made, especially after VAR looking at it as well that VAR should not be used in games. This is because if they are going to stop the match and make the players and fans stand cluelessly waiting and look at the play in slow motion and use technology to look at it, they should be making the correct decision, especially if it is an obvious decision.


Overall, I think that VAR should still be used in games but should have adjustments to it. One of these adjustments should be that the referee should have a Mic on them for viewers back home to hear why decisions have been made. Another adjustment would be that if an offside decision is so close that VAR take so long to look at it and make a decision, it should be given. This would also save the fans from getting unsettled waiting and the players on the pitch from losing their momentum from standing waiting, as this would reduce the amount of time the VAR checks take. In conclusion, I feel that VAR has changed the enjoyment of the game. I believe these opinions are because before VAR, the fans could celebrate a goal without the worry of VAR looking back at it and disallowing it. I also believe one of the main reasons for the fans opinion on VAR is because it takes so long, and the decision is not always accurate. But if they make the changes that i suggested previously, i feel it would make a huge impact on the game and the fans enjoyment.

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