SFA hit back at Rangers: Celtic incident addressed, 'disappointment', audio review, request to Ibrox club

The governing body is ‘disappointed’ by Rangers statement over Old Firm VAR call

The Scottish Football Association has hit back at Rangers as the row over a non-penalty incident at Celtic Park continues.

Celtic defender Alistair Johnston appeared to handle the ball inside the area in the first half of the cinch Premiership clash at Parkhead on December 30 while under pressure from Gers forward Abdallah Sima. Referee Nick Walsh pointed for a goal kick and the decision was confirmed by VAR official Willie Collum following a check.

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It later emerged through Sky Sports – broadcasting the match live – that there had been an offside in the build-up and Rangers claimed that was never mentioned during the VAR analysis. The Ibrox club called on the SFA to release the audio of the incident and following a meeting with the governing body on Wednesday, Rangers said there was “an overriding consensus the VAR decision of no handball was incorrect”. The Govan club also added they were “deeply concerned” by the speed of the decision and there were reports that the club had requested that Collum not be involved in Rangers games going forward.

Rangers claim for a penalty after the ball hits the arm of Celtic's Alistair Johnston.Rangers claim for a penalty after the ball hits the arm of Celtic's Alistair Johnston.
Rangers claim for a penalty after the ball hits the arm of Celtic's Alistair Johnston.

However, in a lengthy statement the SFA said: “The Scottish FA is disappointed by contents of the most recent statement issued by Rangers. “Chief executive James Bisgrove and director of football operations Creag Robertson attended a private briefing with the head of referee operations, Crawford Allan, to review the incident in question, including the use of matchday audio. We understood from the chief executive that the meeting had been constructive and informative, and conducted amicably. This does not appear to be reflected in the club’s statement.

“During the meeting, it was pointed out that the incident in question was a subjective handball and that the VAR did not deem it a sufficiently clear and obvious error to refer to on-field review. Furthermore, the offside would not have been mentioned at the time as it was not part of the VAR’s decision-making on the handball.

“It was highlighted within Clydesdale House that had the VAR considered the incident to be a handball offence and asked the referee to carry out an on-field review, the attacking phase of play would have been checked and an offside would have been identified. This supplementary information was relayed to broadcasters in-game, and we are reviewing the process of information dissemination to avoid any perceived ambiguity in future.

“There was an overall consensus that the incident could not have led to a penalty kick being awarded in any event, and that there was no impact on the final outcome of the match.”

The statement continued: “Since the summer, we have ensured that key match incidents [KMI] are reviewed and shared with all clubs after every full round of Premiership fixtures, including use of audio. We will continue to do this, along with KMI being shared with the independent review panel for their consideration and opinion.

“Finally, we note posts from a recent official media partner of the club’s detailing requests from the private meeting that were immediately rejected. We would ask that club representatives show greater responsibility in such matters, especially in the context of recent incidents in European football that have compromised the safety of match officials and led to widespread condemnation.”

The latter comments comes after former MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca was recently given a permanent suspension for punching referee Halil Umut Meler after his side’s draw with Caykur Rizespor in the Turkish Super Lig.