VAR = more penalties?

In 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, we all were witnesses how VAR (Video Assistant Referee) was helping referees to make right decisions on the pitch. And we all noticed that number of penalties awarded rapidly increased compared to previous world cups.

World CupPenaltiesPenalties per Match
2018 (VAR)290,45

In 2018 World Cup 29 penalties were awarded – more than in two previous world cups combined. And in 2019/20 season VAR is going to be used in all Premier League matches what makes many of us wonder: Will be there more penalties in upcoming season? Should I pick as many penalty takers to my FPL team as I can?

Read more: Premier League Penalty Takers

Copa America and Confederations Cup

In last two years, VAR was used in many competitions. During International matches VAR was used for example in Copa America 2019 and in FIFA Confederations Cup 2017. In the table below, there are stats about penalties from these competitions.

Copa AmericaPenaltiesPenalties per Match
2019 (VAR)110,42


Confederations CupPenaltiesPenalties per Match
2017 (VAR)30,19

In Copa America 2019, where VAR was used, there were 0,42 penalties awarded per match – what is really close to 0,45 penalties per match in 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The number of penalties per match increased by 238% compared to previous Copa America and by 37,5% compared to Copa America 2015.

In Confederations Cup 2017, there were just 0,19 penalties awarded per match and it was a decrease by 40% compared to Confederations Cup 2013.

Bundesliga and Seria A

VAR was used in league competitions too. Figures about penalties before and after implementation of VAR are displayed in the tables below. Let’s see if number of penalties per match in some league got close to the figure from World Cup 2018 – 0,45.

BundesligaPenaltiesPenalties per Match
2017/18 (VAR)880,29
2018/19 (VAR)910,30


Seria APenaltiesPenalties per Match
2017/18 (VAR)1190,31
2018/19 (VAR)1210,32

In Bundesliga and Seria A VAR was used in the last two years. And in neither of them number of penalties per match significantly changed compared to years without VAR.

La Liga and Ligue 1

La LigaPenaltiesPenalties per Match
2018/19 (VAR)1260,33


Ligue PenaltiesPenalties per Match
2018/19 (VAR)1230,32

There is no significant change in penalties per match in La Liga and Ligue 1 after VAR was implemented in the beginning of the 2018/19 season.

Champions league and Eredivisie

My last sample comes from Eredivisie and Champions League Knock Out stage where VAR was used.

EredivisiePenaltiesPenalties per Match


Champions League Knock Out StagePenaltiesPenalties per Match
2018/19 (VAR)100,34

In Eredivisie, number of penalties per match rapidly decreased by 58% after VAR had been implemented what is a bit unexpected. In the Champions League Knock Out stage 2018/19 number of penalties per match increased by 66% compare to previous season but decreased by 33% compared to 16/17 Champions League Knock Out stage.


There is no evidence that situation from the 2018 World Cup with high rate (0,45) of penalties awarded per match repeated in other competitions after implementation of VAR, except Copa America 2019 (0,42 penalties per match). In the league competitions (Bundesliga, La Liga, Seria A, Ligue 1) rate of penalties per match remained almost the same after implementation of VAR (around 0,3 penalties per match). In Eredivisie the figure rapidly decreased compare to season without VAR.

Whether Premier League follows World Cup 2018 or others league competitions in the number of penalties after VAR implementation will remain to be seen. I would not advise you to load up your teams with only penalty takers (so far). Of course, 2-4 of them is fine because plenty of top scoring players are on penalties but I would not “put all eggs in one basket.” However that is another story about a diversification. My advice is to monitor the situation about penalties from the beginning of the season.

There were 0,24 penalties per match in the last two Premier League seasons and in my opinion, we should count this rate of penalties per match after 2-3 gameweeks in the new season and if the figure is much higher than 0,24 and closer to 0,45 we may adjust our strategy and bring penalty takers in.

Sources: FlashScore, Statbunker, IFAB

Matej Šuľan

Fantasy Football enthusiast with two top 1k finishes in FPL. Best FPL overall rank: 119th in 2019/20 season. Five top 500 finishes in UCL Fantasy, best overall rank: 23rd in 2018/19 season. Founder of Fantasy Football Reports.