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Scottish Football Should Continue To Hold Off On VAR

Date: 10th January 2020

VAR (Video Assistant Refereeing) has become a hot topic in Scottish Football in the last month. 

Reports in December suggested that the SFA were ready to start a study that would look at the introduction of VAR. The study would weigh up the potential costs and also look at the benefits in bringing such a project to the Scottish game. 

That news was followed up by a strong worded statement by Rangers after their win over Celtic late last month.

The Ibrox club said:

“Rangers is today repeating its call for the introduction of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) following Sunday’s Premiership victory at Parkhead.”

“Rangers believes Scottish referees need additional help if match officials are to get more of the big decisions correct and the club is convinced VAR would provide that extra assistance.”

At the start of this month, Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes also called for the use of VAR:

“We should be doing all we can to get VAR.”

“It is not perfect by a long way and is still causing problems. Referees need to use it better in England by looking at the monitor more and taking a bit more time to consider the situation and get the right decision.”

“For major decisions, such as sendings-off and goals, I still think the stats show it works.”

I get why those so invested in the game think it’s a good idea, they believe that they’ll get the right decisions and it will get them more points on the board. Yet in reality it will probably even itself out over a season. Every manager and football fan cries about injustices during a season, they quickly forget the refereeing decisions that actually go there way. 

As McInnes mentioned, the Premier League down south have had a tough time implementing VAR this term. It is too forensic when dealing with offsides and handballs in the box and yet they have a ridiculously high threshold for fouls. If they can’t get it right there first time around, what with all their cash, then Scottish football will probably take even longer when bringing in the system.

Now some people will say that other continental leagues have done it better but Italy’s Serie A had various problems in it’s first year as did UEFA’s top club competition. 

Personally I think it would be better for Scotland to wait until all the creases have been ironed out before we head down the VAR route. Let others perfect it first and then bring it in. 

Look at the goal-line technology that they use in the Premier League, it’s super effective. Yet according to The SFA and the Scottish Premiership, it’s too cost prohibitive to execute such a project up here. That suggests to me that we probably can’t afford VAR. Talk is that the top flight clubs will have to fork out £1m a season to cover VAR costs. Some will be happy to pay that, others will be against it!

Will all the clubs have huge monitors that keep the fans informed on what’s happening? That was the biggest plus point in the 2018 World Cup. If you don’t involve the fans then you’ll worsen the game’s atmosphere. 

Dons gaffer McInnes also states a reason for the English game’s struggles with VAR is that the officials don’t go to the screens and aren’t spending enough time to make the right decisions. Too much waiting around will also drive some supporters nuts. 

I’d much rather our authorities started to make our refereeing positions full-time. If being a referee was their full-time career, then they could train throughout the week. They would be fitter, sharper and know the rules inside out and also know how to interpret them properly.

Do that first and then see if we can get improvements that way.

 I like the debates that spring up from refereeing decisions. I don’t want to sanitise our product with micro managing concepts which seem to take around 12 months of upheaval before you see some benefits.  

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