Video assistant referees (VAR) have been approved for use at the summer’s World Cup in Russia and based on the trials conducted in matches so far could offer some interesting betting opportunities.


One of the criticisms of VAR has been the length of time it takes for a decision to be made. But this period of deliberation offers an opportunity for bookmakers to offer betting on the result, especially as the speed of in-play betting continues to quicken.

Of the incidents that can be referred to VAR, “goal/no goal” and “penalty/no penalty” decisions are those most likely to appeal as a betting event.

But before all the “quants” in the trading department start developing VAR algorithms, they would do well to search for “Alex Bird” on their phones.

In the post-war years Bird was a professional gambler who won a fortune on UK racecourses betting on photo-finishes. It is reported that he won 500 successive photo-finish bets by developing a technique which gave him an edge in determining the winner.

If VAR betting is introduced enterprising punters will undoubtedly try to use technology to give themselves an edge in predicting the referees’ decisions. Bookmakers should tread with caution.