Why VAR needs to be scrapped in Scotland immediately after another weekend of contentious decisions

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This past weekend was the nadir for VAR in Scottish football and there will be worse to come.

Throughout the Scottish top flight there were incidents met with howls of derision or laughter as the process of interrupting the game for extended periods, while planting a little seed of doubt in the mind of every fan for every goal scored, still couldn’t get the right decision.

The fundamental problem with VAR and any argument which champions its existence is that “right” and “wrong” decisions in football are nowhere near as common as we think. A tackle or a shirt pull or a handball, when they go for or against our favourites, are black and white. Unfortunately, referees deal in a wide spectrum of grey tones.

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The penalty given against Hibs defender Paul Hanlon is a good example of that. Most Celtic fans would say it’s a penalty. Hanlon initiates the contact and then Cameron Carter-Vickers goes to ground as a result. Hibs fans would say it isn’t a penalty. It’s 50-50 and in fact it’s the Celtic defender who hooks Hanlon’s arm to make sure the contact remains before throwing himself to ground.

Referee Steven McLean shows the yellow card to Hibs boss Lee JohnsonReferee Steven McLean shows the yellow card to Hibs boss Lee Johnson
Referee Steven McLean shows the yellow card to Hibs boss Lee Johnson

Officials fall in the middle. Some would say ‘absolutely no penalty’ and others saying ‘yeah it probably is’. It may surprise some, but referees will often debate amongst themselves over specific decisions. So in the Hanlon case, as difficult as it is to get our collective heads around this, there is no right answer.

The non-penalty handball at Kilmarnock: Andrew Considine definitely handles it with an arm well above his head. So how come VAR didn’t give a penalty? Well, Joe Wright can be seen extending his hands into Considine’s back while the ball is in the air. The VAR official presumably instructed the main official to continue play on the basis the St Johnstone defender was impeded and reacted as a result. The contact looks minimal and incidental to Considine’s action, but again there will be differing interpretations of this, as is human nature.

The penalty incident at Dundee United looks incredibly soft, so how wasn’t that overturned? Well, this speaks to a huge problem with VAR in Scottish football in particular – the lack of camera angles. The referee spotted whatever made Curtis Main feel like he’d been impeded. It looks very soft but there’s no definitive angle that there was zero contact or Main greatly exaggerated what little there was. It couldn’t be overturned in the eyes of that official, but another would find the footage enough to overturn. Again, no right answer exists.

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Those who say it isn’t the technology that’s the problem but the people who are using it are missing the point spectacularly. It’s always going to be this way. There’s always going to be heated debates over refereeing decisions. You can’t fix it without making the laws of the game black and white. Then what are we left with?

Hibs players appeal to referee Steven McLean during Saturday's contentious 3-1 loss to Celtic in Glasgow. Picture: SNSHibs players appeal to referee Steven McLean during Saturday's contentious 3-1 loss to Celtic in Glasgow. Picture: SNS
Hibs players appeal to referee Steven McLean during Saturday's contentious 3-1 loss to Celtic in Glasgow. Picture: SNS

It’s dominating the discourse every week and it is so, so tedious. It was supposed to remove this aspect of football and make things easier on referees. It’s just made everything so much worse.

It’s not going to get better. For the love of football let’s just agree that it was a colossal failure and bin it immediately.

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