Love it or hate it, VAR is now a quotidian element of our beautiful game…although not all the time.
While we’ve all become too accustomed to seeing euphoric celebrations curtailed and goalscorers stopped in their tracks by the use of the clunky system, the FA Cup retains some of that old footballing magic.
As we get deeper into the competition, VAR will naturally become more and more commonplace, but here’s how much it’s been used throughout the tournament’s early phases.
Given the varying facilities that clubs up and down the country boast, not every stadium will be able to house video assistant referees. As a result, VAR has been absent from many FA Cup games.
Every quarter-final tie and the subsequent Wembley match-ups will be supported – or skewed, depending on your opinion – by the use of VAR but, prior to that stage, the technology will be used much more sparingly.
Only when a Premier League side features at home and therefore plays at a stadium with VAR already in place will it be in use; given its absence in the Championship and below, most ties in the early stages won’t feature it. That factor won’t affect its use in the quarter-finals, however, with all matches – regardless of venue – guaranteed video assistant referees.
As we head towards the fourth round of the FA Cup, VAR won’t have many opportunities to steal the limelight. Of the 16 fourth-round ties only five will be hosted by Premier League sides, meaning just five games with VAR in use.
Those games will be Manchester City’s headline clash with Arsenal, Fulham’s bout with Sunderland, Southampton’s tie with Blackpool, Manchester United’s battle with Reading, and Brighton’s exciting-looking encounter with Liverpool.
Elsewhere, a spate of second-tier sides will host their fixtures while National League outfit Wrexham entertain Sheffield United. Accrington Stanley beat Boreham Wood in their replay to set up a home tie with Leeds.