A look at the early impact of VAR on the NBI

I read an article on focibiro looking at the early impact of VAR so far in the NBI. They conclude:
The number of yellow cards increased by almost 20 percent,
the red cards are nearly four times,
and the number of penalties is almost double that of last year.
And of the eleven matches played, only two were where there were no penalties or red cards.

I disagree with their analysis and their figures, I’ll explain why below. Firstly I will start with a reminder as to the role and remit of VAR as defined in the LOTG.

The VAR can and will only intervene when they have the evidence for a clear and obvious mistake in four match-changing situations:

1: goals and offences leading up to a goal*,
2: penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty,
3: direct red card incidents, and
4: mistaken identity.

*This includes goals scored after a foul during the attacking phase, or from an offside position.

In terms of VAR intervention for review, these are the official guidelines on how and when to intervene:

1: What is the on-field decision?
2: Check all possible incidents.
3: Speak with the referee, operator and VAR.
4: Switch camera angles, freeze POC and look in-between.
5: Stop the game yes/no?
6: Review yes/no?
7: The referee always takes the final decision.

Now to my reasons for disagreeing with Focibiro’s analysis. They have included 2nd yellow red cards in their analysis into the red cards comparison, negatively putting these cards down to VAR intervention. This is simply not correct and very misleading. VAR has no remit over yellow cards and therefore has had absolutely zero impact on the 2nd yellow red cards. VAR cannot review or recommend for review in relation to a yellow card offence unless they deem it to be a possible red card offence, not yellow, however if during an on-field review for a possible penalty, the referee sees a foul that he missed in real time and deems the foul to be a yellow card offence then they may give out a yellow card, which could be a 2nd yellow and therefore red. VAR will have impacted that decision but only in terms of a penalty review and not a review on a yellow card offence. The decision for a yellow card in that instance can only come from the referee after carrying out an on-field review, they could not give a 2nd yellow card on VAR say so.

Of the 11 Red cards they have mentioned for this season, 7 of them (this includes ZTE coach Róbert Waltner’s Red card) have been 2nd Yellow red cards, only 4 have been straight red cards and can be considered in terms of VAR impact. That is a significantly different number. Straight red cards have doubled from 2 last season to 4 this season.

It should also be noted that in order to do a proper statistically accurate analysis, you would first need to go back and analyse the 12 games in rounds 1 & 2 from last season to determine if any of the yellow cards were incorrect and should have been red cards and whether any penalties or red cards were missed during those games or were given incorrectly, decisions that would have been corrected by VAR intervention. That could affect the number of yellow cards, red cards and penalties that would have been given, if incorrect decisions were remedied. Additionally with no goal reviews, there may have been goals disallowed amongst those given or any disallowed goals allowed to stand. Those figures are however not available and as referees make on average 250-300 decisions per game, that is 3,000-3,600 decisions to analyse, I have not done so, nor do I intend on doing so! I will therefore use the figures we have available, as focibiro did.

My figures are taken from the MLSZ adatbank and are the official Federation statistics. I have not included cards given to coaches or staff in the technical area in the totals but have noted them. VAR has no remit regarding the behaviour of coaches and other staff on the bench so any decisions in that respect are made by the referee alone.

Let’s start by listing the results from Rounds 1 & 2 from both seasons. Names are given in Western order.


20/21 Round 1
HomeResAwayReferee
MTK Budapest1-1FerencvárosPéter Solymosi3000
Paks1-2ÚjpestÁdám Farkas3000
ZTE3-3Mol FehérvárGergő Bogár6002
DVTK2-1Mezőkövesd ZsóryBalázs Berke3101
Puskás Akadémia1-0Budapest HonvédJózsef Erdős6000
Budafok2-1KisvárdaCsaba Pintér7000

Coaching staff discipline: István Brockhauser – Goalkeeper coach Mol Fehérvár RC


Totals:2810318

20/21 Round 2
HomeResAwayReferee
Mezőkövesd Zsóry1-1ZTEPéter Solymosi2000
MTK Budapest3-1Budapest HonvédÁdám Pillók9000
Kisvárda0-3Puskás AkadémiaGergő Bogár4001
Ferencváros0-1DVTKCsaba Pintér4000
Mol Fehérvár1-1PaksFerenc Karakó6000
Újpest1-2Puskás AkadémiaPéter Zierkelbach4020

Totals:2902114

21/22 Round 1
HomeResAwayReferee
Paks2-3Mezőkövesd ZsóryBalázs Berke7001
Gyirmót1-1MTK BudapestPéter Zierkelbach5010
Ferencváros1-2KisvárdaMihály Káprály7001
Budapest Honvéd1-4DVSCTamás Bognár6101
ZTE1-1Mol FehérvárSándor Andó-Szabó7000
Újpest1-2Puskás AkadémiaCsaba Pintér7000

Coaching staff discipline: Ferenc Horváth (Budapest Honvéd) YC; Róbert Waltner (ZTE) YC; Michael Oenning (Újpest) YC


Totals:3911320

20/21 Round 1
HomeResAwayReferee
Kisvárda2-1GyirmótCsaba Pintér4010
MTK Budapest1-0Budapest HonvédFerenc Karakó5100
Mezőkövesd Zsóry3-2ZTEÁdám Pillók2301
Puskás Akadémia1-6PaksPéter Antal2111
DVSC2-2ÚjpestGergő Bogár5010

Coaching staff discipline: Costantino Giovanni (MTK) YC; Elbert András – Goalkeeper coach (MTK) YC; Róbert Waltner (ZTE) YYR


Totals:1853220

Both seasons totals, side by side for comparison


2020/215712432
2021/225764540

2020/21: 1xRC coaching staff
2021/22: 5xYC coaching staff; 1xYYR coaching staff


Although not impacted by VAR in any event, far from a 20% increase in yellow cards, the figures for the 2 seasons are identical. 57 yellow cards during Rounds 1 & 2 in both seasons. In addition to the on-field yellow cards this season there has been 5 yellow cards to coaching staff in the technical area. There were none last season so that is a significant increase although not due to VAR.

In relation to 2nd yellow Red cards – last season there was 1, this season 6 so there is a significant increase but again not due to the introduction of VAR. 5/6 had zero VAR input, 1/6 – in the Budapest Honvéd v DVSC match in Round 1, there was a VAR review for a possible penalty for handball. Referee Tamás Bognár carried out an on-field review – decision penalty to DVSC. During the OFR he decided that the handball offence was one where a yellow card would be awarded and Klemenz was given a yellow card. As this was his 2nd yellow he was also sent off. There was an additional 2nd yellow red card for ZTE coach Róbert Waltner.

In relation to straight red cards, these are impacted by the introduction of VAR. In season 20/21 there were 2, this season there have been 4. That number has therefore doubled.

Finally in relation to penalties, last season there were 4 in the first 2 rounds, this season there has been 5. An increase of 1 and certainly not nearly double!

Looking more deeply at the areas where VAR can impact, we can now look in detail at what impact there has actually been in each area that falls under the remit of VAR.

1: goals and offences leading up to a goal (includes goals scored after a foul during the attacking phase, or from an offside position)

Goal reviews – these occur for every single goal, that is a matter of standard. In the English Premier League, these take on average 1-3 mins, every single time. We have done much better in Hungary with the impact time minimised. In 42 goal reviews 35 of them have had no noticeable effect on the game and have caused no delay. That is a very significant positive. 7 reviews have taken longer and caused some delay. The reviews in detail:

Round 1:

ZTE v MOL Fehérvár

69. VAR review on the goal – decision goal given (ZTE) – very small delay

Gyirmót FC Győr v MTK Budapest

54. VAR Review on goal – Decision: Goal given no handball as per the LOTG – delay of 1-2 mins

Paks v Mezőkövesd Zsóry

80. VAR Goal Review – delay 30 seconds – 1 min

Round 2:

Puskás Akadémia v Paks

15. VAR checking goal possible handball – OFR – goal stands no handball offence Paks

Mezőkövesd Zsóry v ZTE

32. VAR review goal – OFR – Decision no goal – foul by Márk Koszta
53. VAR review – checking offside – goal disallowed for ZTE
69. Goal review – possible offside – no offside goal stands for ZTE

3 of the 7 lengthier reviews were in 1 match with rookie referee Ádám Pillók, it was his first game live with VAR. He is young and still inexperienced in NBI games and he looked very stressed during the reviews. He is not at this stage a confident, established NBI referee and is still very much learning and growing as an official. He must be given the time, patience and support to be allowed to continue to grow, he is a talented and promising young referee, his confidence will grow as he becomes more experienced. It would also have been the VAR’s first or second live match as VAR, they are also still learning.

Personally I consider 35 unnoticeable delays, 3 delays of less than a minute and 4 longer delays to be pretty good stats in the first 2 weeks.

2: penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty:

There have been 6 VAR reviews for possible penalties and 3 VAR reviews of penalty decisions given by the referee. Of the 6 reviews for possible penalties, 3 penalties were subsequently given after an OFR by the referee, the other 3 reviews led to decisions of no penalty and were carried out by VAR only, no OFR. Of the 3 penalty decisions made by the referees and then reviewed by VAR, 1 was confirmed by VAR with no OFR needed, 1 there was an OFR and the penalty decision stood and 1 there was an OFR and the penalty was withdrawn and the game restarted with a dropped ball to the keeper.

Round 1:

Budapest Honvéd v DVSC

56. VAR review – possible penalty – on-field review – decision penalty to DVSC (Klemenz also given a 2nd yellow Red)

Ferencváros v Kisvárda

77. VAR review possible penalty – on-field review – decision penalty to Ferencváros

Paks v Mezőkövesd Zsóry

45+5. VAR review possible penalty – on-field review – decision: penalty Paks

Round 2

Puskás Akadémia v Paks

69. VAR review on penalty decision – stands

DVSC v Újpest

45+3. VAR review – possibly penalty for DVSC – decision no penalty
85. Possible handball/penalty for DVSC – decision no penalty

MTK Budapest v Budapest Honvéd

84. VAR possible penalty for Kispest – decision no penalty

Mezőkövesd Zsóry v ZTE

5. VAR review of penalty decision – OFR – Decision no penalty Mezőkövesd
45+5. VAR review – Possible penalty – OFR – Decision penalty Mezőkövesd

Conclusion: 3 missed penalties were subsequently awarded due to VAR intervention, 3 reviews led to no penalty being awarded, the reviews conducted only by VAR. Of the 3 penalties awarded by the referee on the pitch, 2 were subsequently upheld after VAR review, 1 which also included an OFR and 1 withdrawn by the referee after OFR. 4 key match decisions corrected and 2 key match decisions confirmed as being correct.

3: direct red card incidents

There have been 5 possible red card reviews over the 2 rounds.

Round 1:

Gyirmót FC Győr v MTK Budapest

36. VAR review – possible red card. Decision – no red card, the yellow card stands MTK
88. VAR review – possible Red card – On field review taking place – decision Red Card given against MTK.

Round 2:

DVSC v Újpest

12. VAR review – possible red card – OFR – decision yellow card withdrawn, red card given against Újpest

Kisvárda v Gyirmót

44. Possible red card – OFR – Yellow card withdrawn, red card given against Kisvárda

Puskás Akadémia v Paks

87. Possible red card – OFR – decision Red card given against Puskás Akadémia

Conclusion: 4 yellow cards upgraded to red cards after an OFR by the referee, 1 confirmed as yellow not red. 4 key match decisions corrected.


The overall conclusion therefore is that you can’t simply compare the difference in numbers between last season and this season without knowing how many, if any, of the decisions in the first 2 rounds would have been changed upon review. 2 goals disallowed and 8 key match decisions have been changed this season due to VAR – would a similar number have been changed last season? We don’t know is the answer and unless someone wants to spend a very long time scrutinising up to 3,600 decisions from last season to find the answer it is something we will never know.

We can however look at the impact VAR has had since its introduction and whether that is positive or negative. There has been very little impact in terms of goal reviews, a total of 42 goal reviews, 35 went completely unnoticed, 3 delays of less than a minute, 2 of them probably under 30 seconds and in reality only 4 delays of a significant length. 40 goals stood and 2 were disallowed. 3 missed penalties awarded, 1 incorrect penalty withdrawn and 4 missed red cards rectified and given. 8 key match potentially game changing decisions being corrected after VAR review. This is what we want from VAR is it not – major potentially game changing decisions being correct?

There have been delays, in particular in relation to penalties and red cards, they are unavoidable, you cannot review major calls with no delay. Have the delays been too long? In a minority of cases yes but these delays are likely to decrease in time as the referees and VARs get more used to the system and become more confident using it. Are the delays detrimental? I guess that depends on your viewpoint, if you don’t care whether referee decisions are correct or not then probably yes, but if you want the major referee decisions to be correct then probably not – 8 key match potentially game changing decisions were corrected after VAR review.

I did not want VAR, I’m not a fan but I think overall it has had a positive effect so far. 8 potentially game changing mistakes have been avoided and the vast majority of the mandatory goal reviews have been carried out quickly and efficiently in the background with zero impact on the game.


Just in case you would prefer to see the VAR reviews listed on a match by match basis as opposed to by category as I have done above, I have listed them that way below just for information.

Round 1:

Újpest 1-2 Puskás Akadémia
No VAR intervention

ZTE 1-1 MOL Fehérvár
69. VAR review on the goal – decision goal given

Budapest Honvéd 1-4 DVSC
56. VAR review – possible penalty – on-field review – decision penalty to DVSC Klemenz also given a 2nd yellow Red

Ferencváros 1-2 Kisvárda
77. VAR review possible penalty – on-field review – decision penalty to Ferencváros

Gyirmót FC Győr 1-1 MTK Budapest
36. VAR review – possible red card. Decision – no red card, the yellow card stands MTK
54. VAR Review on goal – Decision: Goal given no handball as per the LOTG
88. VAR review – possible Red card – On field review taking place – decision Red Card MTK

Paks 2-3 Mezőkövesd Zsóry
45+5. VAR review possible penalty – decision: penalty Paks
80. VAR Goal Review

Round 2:

Puskás Akadémia 1-6 Paks
15. VAR checking goal possible handball – OFR – goal stands no handball offence Paks
69. VAR review on penalty decision – stands Paks
87. Possible red card – OFR – decision Red Felcsút

DVSC 2-2 Újpest
12. VAR review – possible red card – OFR – decision red card Újpest
45+3. VAR review – possibly penalty for DVSC – decision no penalty
85. Possible handball/penalty for DVSC – decision no penalty

MTK Budapest 1-0 Budapest Honvéd
84. VAR possible penalty for Kispest – decision no penalty

Mezőkövesd Zsóry 3-2 ZTE
5. VAR review of penalty decision – OFR – Decision no penalty Mezőkövesd
32. VAR review goal – OFR – Decision no goal – foul by Márk Koszta
45+5. VAR review – Possible penalty – OFR – Decision penalty Mezőkövesd
53. VAR review – checking offside – goal disallowed for ZTE
69. Goal review – possible offside – no offside goal stands for ZTE

Kisvárda 2-1 Gyirmót
44. Possible red card – OFR – Yellow card withdrawn, red card given. Kisvárda