Women’s World Cup 2023: How will VAR work in Australia and New Zealand?

Rebecca Welch Womens World Cup 2023
16th July 2022, Community Stadium, Brentford, London, England: Womens European International football tournament; Denmark versus Spain; Referee Rebecca Welch – Photo by Icon sport

Match officials will announce their VAR decisions to fans in stadiums and viewers at home for the first time in a major FIFA tournament when the 2023 Women’s World Cup gets under way this week.

The eagerly-anticipated competition, which kicks off on Thursday, will be opened by co-hosts New Zealand when they face Norway at Eden Park in Auckland, where the new VAR system will be implemented for the first time.

While FIFA have already accepted that the new way of operating is unlikely to be perfect, there is a hope that its use at the Women’s World Cup will pave the way for the widespread implantation of similar systems elsewhere.

Teething problems expected with VAR at the World Cup

FIFA has said that it expects to see some miscommunication when referees announce the VAR decisions to the crowd at the Women’s World Cup, and this week, chairman of the refs committee, Pierluigi Collina, offered some insight into how things could unfold.

The former taskmaster revealed that conversations between the on-pitch referee and the VAR would not be broadcast as those discussions would often be taking place in the official’s second language and that only the final decision would be announced.

“We didn’t want to put each pressure on them [referees] so we told them to be natural, say what comes across as natural and don’t be too focused on following a script,” Collina said.

Collina, who was in charge of the 2002 men’s World Cup Final, was quick to point out that even 50 years of mic’d-up refereeing stateside in the NFL hasn’t been long enough to eradicate communication errors, so similar slip-ups should be expected later this month in Australia and New Zealand.

“NFL have made announcements of refereeing decisions for 50 years and today very experienced referees make funny announcements with mistakes. Speaking on a microphone in front of 50, 60, 70,000 people through the PA is not easy.

“Refereeing is not easy and this will add some extra pressure. But we are confident that it will work well.”

How will the VAR process work at the 2023 Women’s World Cup?

Incidents like mistaken identity, potential red card, potential foul in the penalty are and goals scored will be checked by the match officials, fourth official and by VAR at the World Cup, and items that are undergoing review will be shown via replays on screens in stadiums and broadcast on television.

Once the decision has been made, the on-field match official will make an announcement through the stadium’s PA system.

Interestingly, the announcement could even include some of the reasoning behind the call, which player has committed the offence along with other descriptive elements that are deemed relevant.

For example, following a VAR decision, the referee could announce: “A red card has been shown to player number six for serious foul play for their tackle on player four”.

Similarly, the referee could say: “A penalty kick has been awarded because player number three made illegal contact with player number ten in the 18-yard box”.

Collina also said that match officials at the World Cup would be encouraged to be strict in adding on additional time for stoppages in games. Fixtures at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were extended by 11 minutes per game on average to deter time-wasters, so we should expect to see similar elongated matches in Australia and New Zealand.

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