Hibs Exclusive: 'The inconsistency baffles everyone' - Monty on VAR controversy

To review or not review, that is the question still seeking a clear and obvious answer
Falling on deaf ears - referee David Munro wasn't given a chance to watch the Devlin handball again, meaning Myziane Maolida's appeals went unanswered.Falling on deaf ears - referee David Munro wasn't given a chance to watch the Devlin handball again, meaning Myziane Maolida's appeals went unanswered.
Falling on deaf ears - referee David Munro wasn't given a chance to watch the Devlin handball again, meaning Myziane Maolida's appeals went unanswered.

The admission of error is welcome, the apology certainly appreciated. And Nick Montgomery clearly retains at least qualified confidence in some aspects of a VAR system currently under fire from all corners.

But someone from the SFA Referee Department ‘fessing up to Hibs and saying sorry doesn’t carry any tangible benefit, in terms of points on the board. And it leaves Montgomery, like so many of his peers, still baffled on one key point of procedure. The glaring inconsistency when it comes to referring incidents for on-field reviews by the match referee continues to undermine confidence in the system.

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Following their meeting with the SFA yesterday, Hibs revealed that the governing body had apologised for a clear mistake in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Aberdeen. Referee David Munro should, it was conceded, have been called over to watch a replay of Aberdeen defender Nicky Devlin’s handball offence at Pittodrie. Video Assistant Referee David Dickinson – backed up by his own assistant, Graeme Leslie - obviously dropped the ball.

The Devlin incident came at an awkward time for SFA head of referee operations Crawford Allan, who launched a spirited public defence of VAR last week. Despite revealing that 13 Key Match Incidents had reached an incorrect outcome in the second full round of Scottish Premiership fixtures, up from just three in the first round of games, Allan declared: “We've got proof that it is adding value and accuracy to the Scottish football diet.”

Montgomery might find that hard to swallow. Even if he’s willing to admit that VAR is getting some things right, its failure to correct glaring mistakes leaves the Hibs boss frustrated.

“I’m probably speaking on behalf of all the managers when I say there are times when you have confidence in VAR – when it comes to offside, for example,” said Monty, whose team benefited from a VAR review overturning an offside flag that would have seen their second goal incorrectly ruled out.

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“At the weekend, we had a couple that we could clearly see weren’t offside, but it took three or four minutes to review it and give the goal. When a goal is scored, I think it’s very good for them to review it and see if it was offside or not. That does give you a lot of confidence.

“But, as a manager, the ones you really want are the clear and obvious errors that the referee maybe misses in the speed of the game, because the game is so quick. The VAR is there to tell him to come and have a look at the monitor and make his own mind up.

The inconsistency of that is something that baffles everyone. Certain incidents go to the monitor. Some of the most obvious ones don’t go to the monitor.

“It’s often only after the game that you realise there’s been a clear an obvious error. But it doesn’t change the result. We’ve been talking about it all season.

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“As a manager, you get asked your opinion and give your view. Then I read that I’m having a go. I’m just answering questions and giving an honest answer. Everyone is going to have their views on it.”

Expanding the argument to include Martin Boyle being booked for diving despite apparently being tripped in the penalty box in the recent 2-1 home loss to Celtic, Montgomery added: “I think, as a club, it’s good that we stand up for ourselves. Because, in the last two weeks, it’s been tough.

“I think on the weekend, away at Aberdeen, that (a penalty award) would give us a chance to make it 2-1 to us, put us back in the lead. The whole complexion of the game changes.

“It’s disheartening when you see something so blatantly obvious. I think everybody in the stand could see it was a penalty – including everybody from Aberdeen, the players and the fans.

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“There is a pause in play. And, for some reason, he doesn’t go to the monitor and check for a penalty – when everyone is expecting a penalty.

“We’re looking at it on the screen, which every dugout now has, for good or bad. It allows you to rewind and have a look. And it’s so blatantly obvious it’s a penalty, you expect to get awarded a penalty – but the game gets waved on because they say it’s been cleared.

“In the Celtic game, I think it’s a clear and obvious error when the Martin Boyle penalty appeal isn’t given. If the VAR sees that and ask the referee to have a look, it’s quite clear that there has been contact from behind – and it’s a penalty. If we score that goal, it puts us 2-1 up against Celtic, in a game where we were doing really well. So I think that changes the complexion of the game – and it quite possibly could have been three points.

“So, yeah, it is nice to get an apology. But it’s hard to understand how, when the system is there to ensure there is no clear and obvious error, that there was a clear and obvious error – but we just get an apology after the game.

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“That’s what I find really disappointing. Because I felt that, in the last couple of games alone, there were two big moments where we could have scored from penalties to put us in the lead. That totally changes those games.

“Getting an apology, it’s the right thing to do – but it doesn’t change the facts. It doesn’t change the result. It doesn’t change the fact that we’ve been on the wrong end of a decision.

“We feel hard done by. But that doesn’t excuse some of the goals we’ve been conceding through poor defending – so I’m not saying that. I’m not making excuses about that, or about the chances we’ve missed.

“It’s just that these moments have gone against us. It’s good that the club had the apology. We all want it to improve, we all want VAR to work so that it works consistently.”

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