Explained: How VAR will work at the Women’s World Cup (2:14)

Dale Johnson explains the process that will see referees announce why they have overturned a decision in the stadium. (2:14)

Dale Johnson, General Editor, ESPN FCJul 20, 2023, 06:16 AM ET

We’re analysing all the major VAR decisions throughout all 64 games at the Women’s World Cup. History was made between New Zealand and Norway as a referee announced their VAR decision to the crowd at a major tournament for the first time.

After each big call, we examine it and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.

New Zealand 1-0 Norway

VAR overturn: Penalty for handball by Hansen

What happened: It was the 87th minute when New Zealand’s Malia Steinmetz attempted to cross into the area from the right flank, and the ball hit Norway defender Tuva Hansen just inside the area. Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita signalled for play to continue, but as soon as it stopped the VAR, Tatiana Guzmán of Nicaragua, began a check for handball.

-How referees will announce VAR calls at Women’s World Cup

VAR decision: Penalty, missed by Ria Percival

VAR review: The Women’s World Cup is the first major test of FIFA’s new VAR process, where the referee announces their decision to the crowd over their microphone. It’s already featured in the Club World Cup and the Under-20 World Cup, but it’s this tournament which will bring it to the masses.

FIFA will be delighted it was seen in action in the high-profile opening game, and that it seemed to run smoothly. At the same time, world football’s governing body could not have wished for an easier decision to showcase its trial.

Everyone in the stadium knew the ball had hit Hansen, and it was obvious there was a claim for a handball penalty. Replays showed that Hansen had her arm away from her body, so it was a simple call for the VAR to send the referee to the monitor.

After Yamashita had reviewed the footage, a hush descended upon Eden Park as the home crowd waited for their team to be awarded the spot kick.

Yamashita stepped onto the pitch, made the TV sign and announced: “After on-field review the decision is … penalty.”

And upon the referee pointing towards the penalty spot, the crowd erupted in celebration, which meant her explanation of the decision was lost in the noise. After giving the decision, the referee says which player has been penalised, for what offence and any disciplinary action.

This VAR overturn was so simple it didn’t really need that explanation, and Yamashita announcing the outcome certainly seemed to add a little more drama. The only possible doubt was whether the handball was in the area or just outside.

But it begs the question, what will happen when there is a controversial or complicated overturn, or an off-the-ball infringement is spotted which the crowd were unaware of before the review? Will the referee’s explanation also be drowned out by the reaction of the crowd?

It’s early days for this trial, as it would have been obvious under the old system if there was a penalty awarded by the referee pointing to the spot.

FIFA believes this is the answer to fans’ frustrations over communication of VAR calls, but we still didn’t get to hear what the VAR said to the referee – and that’s what fans really want.

Also, it only applies to overturns at the monitor. Early in the second half there was another handball penalty appeal, and a lengthy check by the VAR while play was stopped. The fans were offered no explanation for this, and instead had to rely on information on the big screen.