VAR In China: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Like many of the footballing leagues around the globe, Video Assistant Referee also known as VAR is being inputted to try and help referees out for situations they couldn’t quite catch in real time.

China is no exception.

With VAR being relatively new to football, although not to multiple other sports, there was bound to be a few issues that came with it. And again China is no exception.

Today I’ll be looking at what you could say are the positives of VAR in China but also what some of the negatives may be. Some maybe general but others will be China specific and what they need to do as a nation to improve the accuracy of decisions in the sport.

What Is VAR?

VAR, also known as Video Assistant Referee, is a tool used around the world in top level footballing leagues and competitions to help out the Head Referee, the only on field man with access to the tool.

Four types of events can be reviewed by the referee. These are:

Goals- Whether it was a goal or not, and also if their was a violation in the build up to the goal.

Penalty Decisions

Red Card Decisions

Mistaken Identity- for a booking or sending off.

FIFA finally introduced VAR for the separate associations to use in 2016 where it was tested in trials in games from the MLS and multiple international friendlies.

Football has always been seen to be behind the times in terms of technology with a vast amount of sports using them including most notably Rugby Union, Rugby League, Cricket , American Football (NFL) and even in Athletic events to determine winners of races.

The Good:

They’re always multiple sides of arguments towards topics and VAR is no different. For as much of its bad points there are good and vice versa.

The one main point about it being good is what most would consider the most important, getting the correct decision!

Referees aren’t perfect. They can get things wrong. This is why having VAR there available to them is great to a certain extent meaning they can get help with numerous decisions as they please; and at the end of the day, all any fans really want is to have the correct decisions so there can be no questions or doubts about any of the in game action and they want it done in a way that’s clear and easy to see.

The Bad:

This is for the most part where the bad comes into play. It’s all well and good having the correct decisions in matches but there comes a point where you think to yourself ‘Just get on with the game’. Countless minutes being spent on decisions meaning extravagant stoppage times which makes the whole thing a bit of a farce. The whole idea of VAR was to speed the game up not slow it down almost making every VAR referral a timeout.

The other bad point couldn’t have been made any clearer during the 2017 Confederations Cup, where the talk of the tournament was fully centered on the horrible use of VAR.

Yes, they had some correct decisions. But they also had plenty of bemused fans watching on at the wrong decision being made as well as the awfully confusing lack of communication between referee and fans. It left fans wondering what the referee was reveiwing at each moment (unless it was obvious of course). Take a look at the NFL, the referee makes it very what it happening at each and every moment of a referral so fans can engage more with what’s happening during the decision making process. This is something FIFA simply has to look at in future.

The Ugly:

You were probably wondering where the hell the links were to China and the Chinese Super League. Well here they are.

Like many of the upper echelon of leagues around the globe, the Chinese FA adopted VAR for referees of the Chinese Super League beginning this season, March 2018.

And so far it’s been nothing short of controversial.

The crazy amount of stoppage time being added to games, the lacklustre almost effortless refereeing taking place has made for some games having to head into the 105th minute.

Maybe this is slightly harsh, to be fair to them most if not all of the decisions have been correct. So what’s the problem some might say.

As stated above the amount of stoppage time needed to accommodate this has been nothing short of astonishing. A game in round two of the CSL season featuring Guizhou Hengfeng and Hebei CFFC play out an incredible five goal thriller only for it to be commonly stopped to an event. Crazily in three of the five goals, VAR was used by the referee. Another game of note in the 2nd fixture of the season between Jiangsu Suning and Beijing Guaon where three goals were scored, two going to referral.

The point I’m trying to make is that these referees having the technology there is leading them to be lazy and not think for themselves which in turn led to crazy stoppage time periods.


Let’s face it, VAR is the future and nothing will change that. Currently we are going through the early development stages and with continued use, VAR will be used for only major decisions and not just used by referees as a get out of jail free card, they’ll actually have to think about what they are doing too.

No doubt we’ll get it right one day it’s just a case of when.