Friday 26th April 2019

VAR Technology Expands to South America, Copa America

VAR Technology Expands to South America, Copa America

VAR Technology Expands to South America, Copa America
Neymar is shown a yellow card by referee Bjorn Kuipers during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Brazil and Costa Rica after a VAR review. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Following the debut of VAR at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, video replay technology is now making its way to South America.

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) has selected Mediapro to be the official provider of video assistant referee (VAR) technology for major competition games held through the end of 2019. VAR will first be used in the quarterfinals for the Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, and Recopa. The 2019 Copa América held in Brazil will feature VAR for the first time.

Spain-based Mediapro already supplies VAR tech for leagues in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and the Arabian Gulf League. In 2017, Mediapro provided VAR for the semifinals and final of the Copa Libertadores.

Mediapro has completed the approval process for FIFA/FIBA to provide video assistant referee services for both national and international competitions, but the company wasn’t behind the VAR tech used at the World Cup. The technology’s debut on the global stage was powered by Crescent Comms (for audio) and Hawk-Eye Innovations (for video). In Russia, content and data from at least 33 camera feeds at each match was priovided to a centralized processing room.

At the World Cup, VAR was used in an advisory role, backing up referees on questionable calls, particularly calls of consequence, such as goals, penalties, and red or yellow cards. CONMEBOL seems to believe VAR will be more deeply entrenched in its ecosystem by the 2019 Copa América, saying that VAR will provide officials the resources to analyze questionable plays “at any time.”

“VAR system is being used increasingly frequently to help referees determine whether there are infractions or questionable plays,” Mediapro wrote in a statement. “With this project, Mediapro will strengthen its position as one of the most notable providers in the VAR technology market.”

SportTechie Takeaway

VAR is not going away. Its debut on the world stage will serve to only accelerate its adoption in regional leagues, despite its imperfections and calls from at least one World Cup team for a more equitable system. By the time the 2022 World Cup approaches in Qatar, VAR will undoubtedly be playing a more permanent role at matches of consequence. 

For the most part, VAR’s contribution to the 2018 World Cup was positive, albeit imperfect, according to the chairman of FIFA’s Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina. While 95 percent of decisions that had the potential to alter a game’s result were already correct, the success rate jumped to 99.3 percent with the use of video review. One of its crowning moments was when the system correctly overturned a penalty kick awarded to Brazil’s Neymar in a game against Costa Rica for a theatrical flop.

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