Scottish football set for 'full blown' VAR as referee chief talks down 'cut-price' version

SFA head of refereeing operations Crawford Allan has no doubts that the current wrangling between SPFL top flight clubs over the costs of introducing VAR at cinch Premiership level will not derail its implementation – and that the system eventually deployed will be “full blown” and not a “cut price” version.

Crawford Allan, head of referee operations at the Scottish FA, at a Hampden training session in VAR.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Crawford Allan, head of referee operations at the Scottish FA, at a Hampden training session in VAR. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Allan, speaking as the governing body gave a presentation of the current advanced training the country’s refereeing community are receiving in VAR, remains optimistic that it will be online within the year. Beyond preventing the Scottish game being considered a backward outlier with 54 VAR set-ups across global leagues, Allan believes the flood of complaints over refereeing calls that the Scottish game too often is left drowning in would be strained with claims that VAR has a 99 per cent success rate for settling the most contentious decisions.

Doubts have been expressed over that prospect, with disquiet from clubs that in excess of more than £100,000 per upper tier club will have to be top sliced from the prize pot each year for VAR when previous projections came in at around half that figure.

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At a meeting of the 12 sides in the Premiership on Monday, the need for the higher level investment was set out. Backed by the SFA, it was explained that this would allow for the number of pitch cameras to be stepped up to six from the lowest viable figure of four. And ensure the operation was run from a centrally controlled operation control room for all games, instead of relying on portacabins or rooms at each top flight venue on matchdays as would be required if pursuing the cheapest option. Clubs will vote on whether to approve a VAR system come the end of the season, and Allan believes the widespread benefits to be accrued will result in best practice for the environment being given the necessary backing.

“We’re confident enough that something will happen, that VAR will come. That’s my personal view,” he said. “It’s ultimately over to the SPFL clubs to decide which model they want. I’ve got quite a degree of comfort [about it] as we’ve been engaging with them on an ongoing basis since last summer.

“I can absolutely state that we’re not going to get a cut price model. We’re going to get a VAR that is signed off by FIFA and is approved and is globally recognised as full VAR. That’s what we’re looking to implement in Scotland. As with any walk of life, there is a balancing act to be had. We’ve presented all these various options to the SPFL, in terms of from the bare minimum, which is four cameras, all the way up to the Champions League, which is 28 cameras.

“As is shown [even] with 18, there [can be the] perception of an error, as with [the Borussia Dortmund] game at Ibrox. But in terms of getting the balance of a full blown VAR and the positivity that will bring, six cameras will cover the vast, vast majority of everything we need and get that balance. Would 12, 18 help? Yeah, possibly but somewhere in there the clubs need to make a decision as to what they want.

“I think we are looking to go forward in terms of Scottish football and where we currently are. If we stay in the status quo, the noise that we’re getting, the feedback, [the fact that] VAR for all intents and purposes is being used by the press and the media already [would persist]. We must invest in VAR.”

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