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How does VAR work in LaLiga? When can it intervene?

The Video Assistant Referee, which will again be in action in today’s Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, can only intervene in certain situations.

Pulido Santana consulta el VAR en el Girona-Real Madrid.

The Video Assistant Referee system, known as VAR, has been used in LaLiga since the 2018/2019 season, but there are still doubts as to when it can be used and how it can be used.

When can VAR intervene in LaLiga?

The Video Assistant Referee can only assist the match referee where there is either a ‘clear and obvious error’ or ‘serious missed incident’ in relation to one of the four following situations:

  • Goal/no goal
  • Penalty/no penalty
  • Direct red card (not a second yellow)
  • Mistaken identity (where the match referee cautions or sends off the wrong player)

The protocol, set out by IFAB, the International Football Association Board, which draws up the laws of the game, make it clear that the referee MUST make a decision on each play, and cannot leave it to the VAR to make the call.

The referee therefore will make their decision which will only be changed if there was a clear and obvious error.

Who can demand a review?

Only the referee can call for a review. The VAR and the other officials are only allowed to recommend to the referee that they initiate a review.

Who makes the final decision?

It is always the match referee who makes the final decision. They can though base that decision on what they are told by the VAR, or they can conduct an on-field review, which is where the referee watches replays on a TV by the side of the pitch.

What time limit is there to carry out a VAR review?

There is no time limit set in the VAR protocol; this is because “accuracy is more important than speed”.

Does VAR consider every situation?

It is important to note that the VAR is constantly monitoring the game, meaning any of the four situations where a review can be initiated are automatically being scrutinised. That means there is no requirement for players or coaches to ask for a review. Indeed, requesting a review is a cautionable offence, including making the on-field review gesture, or making the sign of a TV.

Guillermo Cuadra Fernández (left) is the VAR for today's Clásico.
Full screen
Guillermo Cuadra Fernández (left) is the VAR for today's Clásico.DANI SANCHEZDIARIO AS

Detailed situations where VAR intervenes in LaLiga

The actual categories of incident which can be reviewed are as follows:

Goal / no goal

- Attacking team offence in the build-up to or scoring of a goal (handball, foul, offside, or other offence)

- Ball out of play prior to goal

- Goal / no goal decision

- Offence by goalkeeper or penalty taker at the taking of a penalty kick, or encroachment by an attacker or defender who then becomes directly involved in play when the penalty kick rebounds from goalpost, crossbar or the goalkeeper

Penalty kick / no penalty kick

- Attacking team offence in the build-up to the penalty incident (handball, foul, offside etc.)

- Ball out of play prior to the incident

- Location of offence (inside or outside the penalty area)

- Penalty kick incorrectly awarded

- Penalty kick offence not penalised

Direct red cards

- Denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO)

- Serious foul play or reckless challenge

- Violent conduct, biting or spitting at another person

- Using offensive, insulting or abusive actions

Mistaken identity (red OR yellow card)

Where the referee penalises an offence and gives the wrong player a yellow or red card the identity of the offender can be reviewed. Note though that the actual offence itself cannot be reviewed unless it relates to one of the reviewable situations: goal, penalty incident or direct red card.

See also:

Who is the VAR for Barcelona vs Real Madrid?

Guillermo Cuadra Fernández will be the VAR for today’s LaLiga clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Cuadra Fernández will be assisting match referee Jesús Gil Manzano, who is taking charge of El Clásico for the third time in his career.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid: when, where, how to watch?

Barcelona host Real Madrid on matchday 11 of the 2023/24 LaLiga season today, with kick-off at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys is scheduled for 10:15am ET/7:15am PT.

ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes have the US broadcast rights to El Clásico, which you can watch on the online platform fuboTV.

Watch a live stream of El Clásico on fuboTV, which offers a free trial.

Video - Watch El Clásico trailer:

How does VAR work in LaLiga? When can it intervene?