IFAB PROTOCOL (SUMMARY)
Procedures
Original decision

• The referee and other match officials must always make an initial decision (including any disciplinary action) as if there was no VAR (except for a ‘missed’ incident)
• The referee and other match officials are not permitted to give ‘no decision’ as this will lead to ‘weak/indecisive’ officiating, too many ‘reviews’ and significant problems if there is a technology failure
• The referee is the only person who can make the final decision; the VAR has the same status as the other match officials and can only assist the referee
• Delaying the flag/whistle for an offence is only permissible in a very clear attacking situation when a player is about to score a goal or has a clear run into/towards the opponents’ penalty area
• If an assistant referee delays a flag for an offence, the assistant referee must raise the flag if the attacking team scores a goal, is awarded a penalty kick, free kick, corner kick or throw-in, or retains possession of the ball after the initial attack has ended; in all other situations, the assistant referee should decide whether or not to raise the flag, depending on the requirements of the game

CHECK

• The VAR automatically ‘checks’ the TV camera footage for every potential or actual goal, penalty or direct red card decision/incident, or a case of mistaken identity, using different camera angles and replay speeds
• The VAR can ‘check’ the footage in normal speed and/or in slow motion but, in general, slow-motion replays should only be used for facts, e.g. position of offence/player, point of contact for physical offences and handball, ball out of play (including goal/no goal); normal speed should be used for the ‘intensity’ of an offence or to decide if it was a handball offence
• If the ‘check’ does not indicate a ‘clear and obvious error’ or ‘serious missed incident’, there is usually no need for the VAR to communicate with the referee – this is a ‘silent check’; however, it sometimes helps the referee/assistant referee to manage the players/match if the VAR confirms that no ‘clear and obvious error’ or ‘serious missed incident’ occurred
• If the restart of play needs to be delayed for a ‘check’, the referee will signal this by clearly holding a finger to the earpiece/headset and extending the other hand/arm; this signal must be maintained until the ‘check’ is complete as it announces that the referee is receiving information (which may be from the VAR or another match official)
• If the ‘check’ indicates a probable ‘clear and obvious error’ or ‘serious missed incident’, the VAR will communicate this information (but not the decision to be taken) to the referee who will then decide whether or not to initiate a ‘review’

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THE REVIEW

  • The referee can initiate a ‘review’ for a potential ‘clear and obvious error’ or ‘serious missed incident’ when:
  • the VAR (or another match official) recommends a ‘review’
  • the referee suspects that something serious has been ‘missed’
  • If play has already stopped, the referee delays the restart
  • If play has not already stopped, the referee stops play when the ball is next in a neutral zone/situation (usually when neither team is in an attacking move)
  • In both situations, the referee must indicate that a ‘review’ will take place by clearly showing the ‘TV signal’ (outline of a TV screen)
  • The VAR describes to the referee what can be seen on the TV replay(s) but not the decision to be taken, and the referee then
  • makes a final decision based on the referee’s own perception and the information from the VAR, and, where appropriate, input from other match officials – VAR-only review

or

• goes to the referee review area to view replay footage – ‘on-field review’ (OFR) – before making a final decision. The other match officials will not review the footage unless, in exceptional circumstances, asked to do so by the referee
• At the end of both review processes, the referee must show the ‘TV signal’ again, immediately followed by the final decision
• For factual decisions e.g. position of an offence or player (offside), point of contact (handball/foul), location (inside or outside the penalty area), ball out of play etc. a VAR-only review is usually appropriate but an ‘on-field review’ (OFR) can be used for a factual decision if it will help manage the players/match or ‘sell’ the decision (e.g. a crucial match-deciding decision late in the game)
• For subjective decisions, e.g. intensity of a foul challenge, interference at offside, handball considerations, an ‘on-field review’ (OFR) is often appropriate
• The referee can request different cameras angles/replay speeds but, in general, slow-motion replays should only be used for facts e.g. position of offence/player, point of contact for physical offences and handball, ball out of play (including goal/no goal); normal speed should be used for the ‘intensity’ of an offence or to decide if it was a handball offence
• For decisions/incidents relating to goals, penalty/no penalty and red cards for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (DOGSO), it may be necessary to review the attacking phase of play which led directly to the decision/incident; this may include how the attacking team gained possession of the ball in open play
• The Laws of the Game do not allow restart decisions (corner kicks, throw-ins etc.) to be changed once play has restarted, so they cannot be reviewed
• If play has stopped and restarted, the referee may only undertake a ‘review’, and take the appropriate disciplinary sanction, for a case of mistaken identity or for a potential sending-off offence relating to violent conduct, spitting, biting or extremely offensive, insulting and/or abusive gesture(s)
• The review process should be completed as efficiently as possible, but the accuracy of the final decision is more important than speed. For this reason, and because some situations are complex with several reviewable decisions/incidents, there is no maximum time limit for the review process

FINAL DECISION
• When the review process is completed, the referee must show the ‘TV signal’ and communicate the final decision
• The referee will then take/change/rescind any disciplinary action (where appropriate) and restart play in accordance with the Laws of the Game