Alan Hubbard ©ITG

VAR is the latest acronym to join sport's already overcrowded lexicon. Soon it will be as much in common usage as LBW, KO or even IOC. But those three new characters are already changing the very nature of the games we play and watch.

As a new-tech philistine I have mixed feelings about its implementation in sport. I suppose I am old school enough to remember when we played to the whistle and the referee's decision was final.

Now in virtually every major sport the ultimate arbiter is not the ref or umpire but the person working the video replay machine, AKA the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) or Video Assistant Reviewer.

I suppose in this highly litigious age where a debatable decision can cost not only victory but a small - or large - fortune - we have to accept that some form of higher authority is necessary.

But I do not particularly like it and this old dinosaur is not sure whether it is sport's salvation or ruination.

The sight of an on-field official stopping play to draw an imaginary square box in the air has become a major feature of the current football World Cup.

It has had varying degrees of success because many controversial incidents still seem to be missed by the human eye and also whoever is scrutinising the small screen; most notably the tugging of shirts and body checking during free kicks and corners that was so evident in England's opening game against Tunisia.

But there is little doubt that VAR, like Hawkeye or DRS - cricket's decision review system - is here to stay.

As I say, there is now barely a significant sport where a second opinion is not a requirement. 

VAR has been a regular feature of the ongoing FIFA World Cup ©Getty Images
VAR has been a regular feature of the ongoing FIFA World Cup ©Getty Images

For me, it makes it all too clinical. What happens to the pub argument after a game? Was it offside? Was it really a penalty?

No longer can we blame that bloody awful ref for our team's deficiencies.

What I will say is that one aspect, goal-line technology, had been long overdue in football. Ice hockey has successfully employed it for decades.

Intriguingly, had it been in use in 1966, would England have become world champions? A video review might well have shown that the Russian linesman was wrong and that Geoff Hurst's second goal and England's third in extra time did not actually cross the line, as the Germans claimed.

And as for the fourth, well, in the immortal words of commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, some people were on the pitch because they thought it was all over. Any review of that situation surely would have decreed that such a pitch invasion was illegal, and therefore so was the goal.

But that is subjective. When, sadly these days, so much of sport is not.

Of course we have always had photo finishes in athletics and horse racing and now tracking cameras record every pace to see if there are any infringements.

I suppose the same applies in cycling, although one might imagine that the term VAR is just another substance that could be used as a masking agent or a therapeutic use exemption for a heavy cold...

By and large it seems players themselves welcome such interventions for a second look at things, not least because it gives them a bit of a breather.

Professional squash players say it has actually heightened spectator interest.

In football, VAR can be used in four "match-changing" situations - goals, penalty/no penalty decisions, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity by the referee.

Apart from football, among the sports employing some aspect of the VAR system are rugby union and league, field and ice hockey, squash, badminton, horse racing, athletics, snooker and of course cricket and tennis. Where would the human eye be without Hawkeye, eh?

In all sports the underlying aim of such technology is to improve the views available to decision-makers to enable them to make more accurate decisions. But how far can a sports participant challenge an incorrect decision made using video technology, in particular if that decision was the result of faulty or incorrectly interpreted technology?

The use of video technology to assist on-field decision-makers has been commonplace in North American sports leagues since the early 1990s.

Tennis umpires have been permitted to use video technology since 2006, and cricket umpires since 2009.

Tennis has adopted Hawkeye technology ©Getty Images
Tennis has adopted Hawkeye technology ©Getty Images

Providers of such technology use a computerised system to triangulate video footage and data from multiple cameras to create a 3D representation of the trajectory of a ball, in almost real-time. This representation is then interpreted by the on-field decision-maker (or an off-field decision-maker in communication with the on-field decision-maker) to make an on-field decision on the relevant issue.

Only relatively recently has similar technology been introduced into faster-paced sports, such as rugby league, rugby union and football.

One sport which so far has resisted its employment is boxing, and I understand there is no appetite for its introduction.

Just about the only situations where a review might be helpful are in deciding whether a blow was above or below the belt, or if eye damage was caused by an accidental or deliberate clash of heads, or a punch.

Computerised scoring has been used in Olympic boxing but has now been discarded.

At the moment boxing has a far more pressing priority in educating ringside judges to correctly interpret what they see in terms of marking their scorecards both accurately and impartially.

Meantime, elsewhere we are going have to learn to live with VAR rather than argue the toss over the ref's decisions down the pub.

VAR? Make mine a VAT (vodka and tonic).