Neil Doncaster insists SPFL are right on VAR timing and outlines potential impact of both Old Firm clubs playing Champions League group stage football

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has defended the decision to delay the introduction of VAR until midway through the 2022-23 Scottish Premiership campaign.

VAR is not scheduled to be implemented until the top flight resumes on December 17 after a five week mid-season break while the World Cup finals take place in Qatar.

While it leaves the Premiership clubs subject to the inconsistency of refereeing decisions only being aided by VAR for part of the campaign, Doncaster insists the timing is right.

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“It’s a product of where we are,” he said. “We only want to introduce VAR when we are ready to do so. I think it’s important.

VAR technology has been in operation in the English Premier League since 2019. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

“But a number of other leagues across Europe have also implemented VAR partway through a season, so I don’t think we are doing anything particularly radical by bringing it in partway through next season.

“We were keen not to be early adopters of this technology. We have seen some of the teething problems its introduction has caused in some other leagues.

“So we were keen to ensure that we took advantage of the learnings from those leagues before we implemented it in Scotland.

“We are not quite ready to launch at the start of the season but in partnership with the Scottish FA we are very hopeful VAR will launch partway through the season and hopefully achieve less controversy than perhaps we have seen in recent seasons.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster (right) with cinch chief executive Robert Bridge and the cinch Premiership trophy. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for cinch)

“But it’s a difficult job the refs have so any support they can have I’m sure will be appreciated.”

Doncaster, speaking to Sky Sports as the 2022-23 SPFL fixture list was released, expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of further progress in Europe for Scottish clubs in the new campaign with Celtic, Rangers, Hearts, Dundee United and Motherwell all involved.

With champions Celtic going directly into the Champions League group stage, Doncaster is hopeful Rangers can negotiate the qualifiers to join their Old Firm rivals in the elite tournament.

“That would be huge and it’s not merely from the point of view of the coefficient and making it easier for our clubs to qualify in future - there’s a huge financial boost to the entire game, the better our clubs do in Europe,” he said.

“Unfortunately money is so important to the game and to be able to attract some of the world’s best talent to come to Scotland, money talks. Certainly, the money European competition brings to the game in Scotland is vital.

“It’s very much on the way up. It was a great run Rangers had to get to the Europa League final last season, falling at the final hurdle.

“But we have seen really good performances in Europe from a number of Scottish sides over the years which has resulted in Scotland being ninth in the country coefficient in terms of UEFA competitions.”

Doncaster also welcomes the first season when the top two divisions of Scottish women’s football will come under the auspices of the SPFL.

“We have seen the growth in women’s football across the globe and we want to be a part of that,” he said.

“It has been led very much by the clubs and we are hopeful we will be able to give whatever support we can to maximise the potential that undoubtedly exists in women’s football in Scotland.”


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