VAR in Scottish football: Governing bodies to host meeting over Premiership implementation

Referee Georgi Kabakov consults the VAR monitor during the World Cup qualifier between Austria and Scotland last month. Picture: SNSReferee Georgi Kabakov consults the VAR monitor during the World Cup qualifier between Austria and Scotland last month. Picture: SNS
Referee Georgi Kabakov consults the VAR monitor during the World Cup qualifier between Austria and Scotland last month. Picture: SNS
Scottish football will take a step closer to introducing video assistant referees (VAR) when the governing bodies host a meeting with all top flight clubs next week.

The Scottish FA and Scottish Professional Football League say the meeting is “with a view to introducing VAR for all men’s top-tier matches in the Scottish Premiership and latter rounds of cup competitions.”

Howard Webb will carry out a presentation to members representing each of the 12 teams. The former EPL referee, who once officiated the World Cup final, was initially in charge of implementing VAR in the United States. The meeting will take place on Friday, October 8.

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VAR was used throughout Euro 2020. Though it had no significant bearing on any of Scotland’s matches as Steve Clarke’s men exited in the group stages, it was instrumental in the national team defeating Austria last month after the referee initially missed a foul on Che Adams inside the penalty box.

Both Celtic and Rangers have experienced the technology in European football. The system was responsible for Albian Ajeti scoring in Celtic’s recent 4-3 loss to Real Betis after the goal was initially ruled out for handball.

The Scottish Senior Referees’ Association are in favour of its implementation, with the possibility Scottish whistlers could be prohibited from calling European matches if they don’t work in a league which uses the technology on a weekly basis.

The Scottish FA are prepared to underwrite the training costs for match officials and the SPFL will use the video conference to garner the views of their Premiership members.

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SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell said: “VAR has been under discussion by the Scottish FA’s Professional Game Board since its introduction into the Laws of the Game in 2018. Scottish football took the view that it was be preferable to see the technology be refined, overcome inevitable teething problems and, naturally, become more cost-effective.

“VAR is here to stay and in a short period its implementation has advanced significantly, while its set-up and maintenance costs have reduced. We are now at the point where we need to discuss and ideally agree on its introduction into Scottish football.

“The Scottish FA believes it is necessary for the evolution of our domestic game, to provide additional support to our match officials and also to maximise their potential on the domestic, European and international stages.”

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster added: “Given the costs involved and the potential effects on the natural flow of the game, it was always a sensible decision to monitor the introduction of VAR in other competitions before considering implementation in the cinch Premiership.

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“Now that there has been a meaningful bedding-in period in several leagues, now is a good time to look again at the benefits of the technology. We are keen to hear the views of the clubs, officials and fans and look forward to discussions over the next few months.”

Opinion has been firmly split on the technology since its introduction in 2018. Controversy over the length of time to make decisions, the late disallowing of goals and continued debates over its effectiveness in a sport ruled by subjectivity have made it unpopular with many supporters.

However, others see it as a necessary tool to cut down on refereeing errors which change the course of matches, particularly at the highest level where there’s so much at stake.

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