With VAR, refereeing commission celebrates a 80% reduction…

With VAR, refereeing commission celebrates a 80% reduction in “major mistakes” in the Brasileirão

According to Leonardo Gaciba, the number of mistakes made in the Brazilian National Football Championship (“Brasileirão”) dropped from 188 to 36. The Statistical Spy feature reviewed all 755 match interruptions due to VAR reviews and tells the full story.

 By Valmir Storti — Rio de Janeiro

13 December 2019 4:37 p.m.

Was it good for you? After 755 VAR review-related match interventions, the Brasileirão is finally over. Its main distinguishments include average VAR review times of 1min29s per interruption, 183 decisions that were overturned/changed (one decision overturned/changed in every two matches), and 35 matches (9%) with smaller stoppage times than the time spent on VAR reviews, not taking into account all other match interruptions. In regards to the 183 decisions that were overturned/changed, 31 goals were awarded, whereas 47 were disallowed.

“The first challenge related to VAR intervention times. Once we overcame this challenge, we moved on to the scope of VAR interference. And after we grasped what that scope of interference was, VAR’s acceptance increased. The number of major mistakes dropped from 188, last year, to 36 this year. Today, each goal is examined much more in-depth than before”, said the president of CBF’s Refereeing Commission Leonardo Gaciba. For purposes of this article, major mistakes denote incorrect decisions made by the referees, such as, for instance, a red card or penalty offence incorrectly awarded or that should have been awarded.

The president of the Refereeing Comission Leonardo Gaciba speaks before São Paulo Football Club players – Picture: Press / São Paulo FC

“FIFA never promised that everything would be flawless. We are there to avoid unquestionable mistakes from taking place, the rest remains the same. There will be residual errors, in spite of the comprehensive VAR resource. Fans, in general, will need to learn that certain plays will never be unanimous since they are interpretative by nature. Moreover, VARs should not intervene in said plays. We need to be concerned with unanimous mistakes”, Gaciba stated.

What did VAR change in the 2019 Brasileirão?




goals awarded due to offside calls being overturned


goals awarded due to foul offences being overturned


goal awarded because the ball did not leave the field of play


goals disallowed for offside calls that were not awarded before


goals disallowed due to foul offences that were not awarded


penalty kicks overturned due to goalkeeper encroachment


penalty kicks awarded


penalty kicks overturned


yellow cards in plays that did not use to be awarded before


yellow cards in plays that used to be sanctioned with red cards before


red cards in plays that did not use to be sanctioned before


 red cards in plays that used to be sanctioned with yellow cards before


changes to decisions concerning players that were mistakenly sanctioned

Source: Statistical Spy

Throughout the 380 matches of the Brasileirão, minute by minute, the Statistical Spy feature measured and ranked all instances where referees signaled players to wait before play could be restarted. This time measurement took into consideration four distinct situations: the offence to be reviewed until play was stopped (with the ball still in play); the referee signaling the match to stop until VAR made its decision; whenever appropriate, the signal made by referees before and after heading over to the sidelines to carry out reviews, and the time needed for the ball to be put back into play again.

 Scope of VAR intervention

 Here, we list times taken solely by VARs during both VAR and on-field referee reviews. The time that it takes for the ball to be put back into play in a match additionally depends, in many cases, on players’ goodwill and cooperation.

Time taken by VAR when a decision was overturned/changed:


VAR Referee Number of Incidents Average time
Only VAR 2h19min24s 65 2min09s
Referee reviewed play 3h04min50s 2h24min46s 118 2min48s
Overall 5h24min14 2h24min46s 183 2min34s

Time taken by VAR when a decision was not overturned/changed


VAR Referee Number of Incidents Average time
Only VAR 9h23min27s 544 1min02s
Referee reviewed play 42min12s 40min29s 28 2min57s
Overall 10h05min39s 40min29s 572 1min08s

 General average time taken by VAR

VAR Referee Number of Incidents Average time
Overall 15h29min53s 3h05min15s 755 1min29s

Overall, there were 755 VAR interventions in 380 matches, an average of nearly two interventions per match. On the other hand, 51 matches had no VAR interventions whatsoever, whereas the most interventions in a match were nine, during the Goiás 2-2 Corinthians clash for the 26th round. Below, we submit the other matches that had the most VAR interventions.

 Matches with most VAR review interventions

round match VAR referee VAR vido referee Overall number of interventions
26 Goiás 2-2 Corinthians 1 8 9
14 Botafogo 2-1 Athletico-PR 3 4 7
16 Avaí 1-1 Corinthians 1 6 7
21 Atlético-MG 1-2 Vasco 1 6 7
23 Palmeiras 1-1 Atlético-MG 0 7 7
1 Ceará 4-0 CSA 2 4 6
14 Palmeiras 2- 2 Bahia 2 4 6
18 CSA 2-0 Chapecoense 0 6 6
36 Avaí 1-1 Fluminense 0 6 6

If the tournament had an average of one decision overturned/changed each two matches, on others these figures obviously were significantly higher. The record in calls overturned/changed was three, in four different matches, most of them already in the second round of the competition.

Matches with most VAR-related decisions overturned/changed 

Round Match VAR referee VAR video referee Overall number of changes
1 Fluminense 0-1 Goiás 3 0 3
22 Corinthians 1-0 Vasco 1 2 3
24 Cruzeiro 0-0 Fluminense 3 0 3
29 Internacional 1-1 Athletico-PR 1 2 3

The more number of interventions there are in a match, the smaller the probability there is for the time taken by VAR reviews to be added on. Seven matches had VAR interventions that took over ten minutes. Of the 14 halves of matches, three of them had stoppage times that were smaller than VAR intervention times, and in an additional six matches, stoppage times were not even one minute longer than the time taken by VAR interventions, 64% when adding the first and second halves.

Matches interrupted by VAR the longest time 

Round Match Overall number of interventions Intervention time
14 Botafogo 2-1 Athletico-PR 7 14:54
14 Palmeiras 2-2 Bahia 6 13:37
29 Internacional 1-1 Athletico-PR 5 12:12
26 Goiás 2-2 Corinthians 9 11:43
1 Ceará 4-0 CSA 6 11:31
1 Fluminense 0-1 Goiás 4 10:49
24 Cruzeiro 0-0 Fluminense 4 10:01
21 Atlético-MG 1-2 Vasco 7 09:27
31 Vasco 1-2 Palmeiras 4 09:22
30 Chapecoense 0-3 São Paulo 4 09:14

Of the 380 matches of the Brasileirão, 219 were stopped at least once for VAR reviews in the first half (58%). Of these 219 matches, in 84 of them stoppage times were either smaller than the time taken for VAR reviews or less than one minute (38%) .

In the second half, 257 matches were stopped for VAR reviews (68%). Of these 257 matches, in 70 of them stoppage times were either less than the time taken for VAR reviews or less than two minutes, in addition to the time taken for VAR reviews (27%), not enough time to make up for all player substitutions, cards and additional match interruptions.

“The trend is for match times to increase even further. Today, fans in general no longer find five or six minutes of stoppage time something unusual. To increase this time even further is a matter of training for all those engaged with refereeing”, Gaciba stated.

TRADUÇÃO DA TABELA ABAIXO:  Matches with smaller stoppage times than the time taken for VAR reviews

Number of matches


Number of matches per round in which stoppage times added on at the end of each half were smaller than the time taken for VAR reviews — Picture: Statistical Spy

During the competition, Leonardo Gaciba came up with a metaphor to help refereeing teams grasp the scope of intervention the organization was aiming for.

“FIFA said they were not looking for ants, but for elephants instead. Here in Brazil, we are not looking for elephants, but rather for blue whales (the world’s largest animal)”, Gaciba stated.

Still, average VAR review times increased in the second half of the competition. In the first round, there were, on average, 18 interventions per match each round, a figure that went up to 22 in the second round. What actually decreased throughout the competition was the average VAR review time.

“What matters most is for the fans in general to understand that the number of mistakes has plummeted, that players grabbing each other inside the penalty area is something that has disappeared from football, that the average number of fouls dropped in comparison to last year’s edition, and that less cards were awarded in comparison to last year, particularly if we take into consideration sanctions awarded to coaching staffs this year. The trend is for this to continue improving. For the first year with use of VAR in the Brasileirão, we had very good results. In England, referees underwent two years of training, though when they started using VAR in real-time, they also faced problems and backlash.


Number of match interruptions due to VAR reviews per round

Average review time per VAR interruption, per round

Average review times in each VAR intervention, per round — Picture: Statistical Spy

*The Statistical Spy team is compromised of: Guilherme Maniaudet, Guilherme Marçal, Leandro Silva, Roberto Maleson, Roberto Teixeira, Valmir Storti and Vitória Azevedo





Autor: Sérgio Corrêa

Árbitro na Federação Paulista de Futebol (1981-2001) e da Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (1989 a 2001); Ocupou cargos administrativos no Sindicato dos dos Árbitros de futebol-SP, entre 1990-93 e 1996-03, Eleito e reeleito presidente para dois mandatos: o primeiro compreendido entre 03/02/2003 a 08/04/207 e o segundo, de 09/04/2007 a 08/04/2011. Deixou a função para assumir a presidência da CA-CBF. Pela Associação Nacional dos Árbitros de Futebol ocupou os cargos de secretário-geral, entre 25/10/1997 e 13/05/2003. Na Comissão de Arbitragem da CBF, foi secretário-geral entre 28/10/2005 e 06/08/2007. Nomeado presidente da CA-CBF em duas oportunidades, a primeira entre 07/08/2007 a 22/08/2012, e a segunda, de 13/05/2014 a 28/09/2016. Também foi diretor-presidente da Escola Nacional de Arbitragem de Futebol, entre 07/01/2013 a 12/05/2014. Chefiou o DA de 22/08/12 a 25/04/22 e liderou o projeto de árbitro assistente de vídeo junto a FIFA de 15/09/2015 a 25/04/2022. Retornei do Rio de Janeiro, em 28/04/2022. Missão cumprida !

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