Aidan Smith: VAR is coming - Celtic's goal even got Hearts news anchor involved - but what will we complain about now? At least Hibs can say sorry to Sons

Hibernian need to say sorry to Dumbarton. I’ve thought this for the last five years – from when the chant taking the Sons of the Rock’s name in vain was first heard – and its recent renditions have exacerbated the need for a proper apology.
It's a VAR, VAR better thing we do to install it in our football grounds but then what will we argue about?It's a VAR, VAR better thing we do to install it in our football grounds but then what will we argue about?
It's a VAR, VAR better thing we do to install it in our football grounds but then what will we argue about?

It’s the ditty about Mark Warburton, casting doubt on the claim by Rangers fans when he was their club’s manager that he was in possession of a “magic hat”. Yes, he did own a titfer, sang Hibbies, but it was of the Poundland variety – sorry to that admirable chain of cut-price shops, too – as effectiveness was limited to games against “Dumbarton and other s***e like that”.

Why them? The Noel Coward of Easter Road who knocked out the song would doubtless answer: “Scanning, dear boy. It had to be a team of three syllables to fit.” Like Raith Rovers and St Mirren, also both in the Championship when Hibs scrapped there with Rangers, so Dumbarton are simply unlucky.

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Hibs have another song which goes: “We hate Jam Tarts and we hate Dundee … ” The Dens Parkers, who similarly have done nothing to offend Hibs, are required for rhyming reasons.

But I know how Hibs can make amends, at least to Dumbarton, and that’s to pay for VAR at the C&G Systems Stadium. When Scotland gets video-assisted refereeing, as it assuredly will, there’s a plan, and a laudable one, that the big clubs help out the wee teams by funding installation of the necessary whojummyflippery. This would be kind of like the “buddy” system at my daughter’s primary school where the older pupils look out for the little ones, though of course few clubs in Scotland are older than Dumbarton, founded in 1872, a good 16 years and one Scottish Cup triumph before Celtic, subject of the past week’s hot, whither-VAR? stooshie.

That goal against Hearts – slick cross, even slicker finish, moptop-shakey-shakey celebration from Kyogo Furuhashi, but should it have counted? It was debatable. It was dodgy. We needed Bobby Madden to turn into Bobby the Builder for a performance of “Big Fish, Little Fish (Cardboard Box)”, then after drawing a rectangle with his fingers to rush over to a screen at the side of the pitch for another look.

The fallout – the goal being awarded and Hearts losing – even exercised top BBC Scotland newsman Martin Geissler, though not in his role as anchor of The Nine and other keen political debates but as a Jambo. On Twitter he froze the action at what he reckoned was the key moment and a line drawn across the penalty-box seemed to show that Kyogo’s Beatlecut was offside.

There was, as you’d expect, a lively response to his post with MSPs getting involved and plenty of alternative still-frames showing the Japanese as close to his Hearts marker as Paul McCartney used to be to John Lennon for the chorus of “She Loves You” and, crucially, no more advanced than that.

Some responders – Celtic fans, presumably – questioned Geissler’s understanding of basic geometry, which was pretty funny, and the post-match reaction of hacked-off Hearts manager Robbie Neilson – “That’s Scottish football, you’re in Glasgow” – will have been enjoyed by all fans from beyond the city’s walls. Which begs the pressing question: what the hell are we going to talk about, get aerated about and spontaneously combust over, if VAR will end up settling such disputes?

What do we want? Do we want football where there’s no room for argument, or do we secretly love the argument? Don’t answer that, some of you lot, I think I already know.

I guess the argument might continue, but probably shifting from the game to the technology, which would be much less enjoyable, with questions such as: why on earth did we ever agree to VAR? Football should still be scrutinised by match officials, so why are they wimping out of decisions and deferring to the cameras? The camera doesn’t lie but isn’t it purifying the game to an antiseptic degree that’s, well, a bit boring? Is VAR not what an old metaphor-mangling editor of mine called “the thin end of the slippery slope” and soon AI will have taken over the world and we’ll all be being bossed around by robots?More questions: if a player thinks he’s scored and celebrates with a triple somersault, only for the goal to be ruled out, what’s to stop the robots ordering him to perform the same routine backwards to fully expunge it from the action? Will we see manscaping salons take over our high streets and shopping malls as players demand back, sack and crack daily in a bid to stay one step behind and so beat offside?

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And a crucial question for Scotland, this: what will be our equivalent of Stockley Park, England’s VAR Hub? To avoid argument – to say nothing of paranoia, conspiracy theories and never-ending whataboutery – its positioning will have to be exactly equidistant from Celtic Park and Ibrox. And I do mean exactly. The back, sack and crack boys might have to get involved here, removing any suggestion that there is a bawhair of an advantage favouring one side of the Old Firm over the other.

The English experience has been instructive for us. Our friends in the south have endured many frustrations over VAR, including lengthy hold-ups, judgements based on completely unnatural, superhero powers of detection and the rule deferring to the attacking team being junked, before coming out the other side with a modified system.

In a way they’ve been our guinea pigs. Payback for the poll tax, perhaps. So anyway, Hibs, do your duty to Dumbarton.

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