Scotland's big VAR vote: Will it be passed? How SPFL vote works, what Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs think

Scottish football clubs across the SPFL will today vote on bringing video assistant referees into the top league at the end of this year with a cautious optimism surrounding the proposal.

Introducing a VAR system has long been a topic of discussion, and split opinion, across Scottish football but the 42 senior sides will make a decision on the new technology at the league’s annual general meeting. Each has been supplied with a resolution of the proposal with approximate costings and technical details discussed.

In total three-quarters of all clubs, spread throughout the league ladder, must be in favour, though only top flight referees will be given use of the technology aid aimed to be added during the mid-season World Cup break in November and December if the motion is passed.

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The SPFL is one of few top-level leagues not to use video technology. Varying forms of the system are utilised in 26 countries across Europe. The UEFA Champions League and Europa League have used VAR since season 2019-20.

A statement announcing today’s Scottish league vote earlier this month read said: “The resolution requires 75% of cinch Premiership clubs, 75% of clubs in the cinch Championship and 75% of clubs in cinch Leagues 1 and 2 combined to vote in favour.

“If the resolution is passed, the target implementation date for VAR will be following conclusion of the Qatar World Cup 2022, which takes place between November 21 and December 18 this year.”

That percentage spread equates to nine of the 12 top flight teams voting in favour, eight in the cinch Championship and 15 teams in the bottom two divisions giving it the green light.

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Referee Don Robertson is one of the SFA officials who received VAR training and ahead of possible implementation later this year. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

If ten or more clubs are against, the motion will fall. However, those behind the project are cautiously optimistic and the plans have been viewed favourably by referees. SFA head of refereeing Crawford Allan said “we must invest in VAR” after trialling one such system during a specialised training scheme for referees at Hampden earlier this year, and many managers have entered the debate adding weight to the optimism behind the plans.

Hibs went public with their backing earlier this month and boss Shaun Maloney admitted he was “a big fan of VAR” during a fans Q&A earlier this month. He added: "We are way behind other countries. We should now be able to see the very best of VAR around Europe and then bring it to our league so that we don't spoil all the good things that we have in our league.”

Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou spoke earlier in the season of the inevitability of VAR reaching Scotland and again in January backed a system after seeing his side pick up several injuries in the Scottish Cup win over Alloa.

“If you have VAR, those sorts of incidents are dealt with pretty quickly, and what you see is less and less of them because players know they can’t escape that anymore. Here in Scotland we obviously don’t have VAR, but it’s not just referees, because they can sometimes miss things. There are linesmen, fourth officials who are also part of the game.”

Referee Serdar Gözübüyük reviews the VAR monitor for a potential penalty for a foul on Rangers' Ryan Kent during a UEFA Europa League match between Rangers and Red Star Belgrade at Ibrox. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
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Venting frustration post-match recently Livingston boss David Martindale stressed: “The sooner we get VAR the better,” having seen his side denied a penalty for handball against St Johnstone.

Robbie Neilson did likewise in January after defeat to Celtic and after a VAR trial was conducted during an under-14s match between Hearts and Hamilton earlier this month he added "I think we need to do it to step forward.

While new, some Scottish clubs already have experience of the systems too, when used in continental competition.

Referees trialled VAR software at a special Hampden training session in March. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Rangers most recently had a goal in their Europa League quarter-final against SC Braga ruled out for a handball by Borna Barisic spotted by the video system, but Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side were also awarded penalties via VAR against Red Star Belgrade and Borussia Dortmund each prior round of the competition and another goal initially flagged offside against the Germans was later awarded for the Scottish champions after video analysis.

Previous boss Steven Gerrard as well as his successor at Ibrox have been advocates of VAR and after the win in Germany van Bronckhorst admitted to being "really pro-VAR because it will help the officials to have a good game.” He added: “It shows at critical moments in games, especially deciding moments, when you have VAR you can make it easier for the refs and better for both teams.”

Days later, after being denied a domestic penalty claim against Dundee United, the Dutchman said: “VAR will make it easier and these decisions can be turning points. They can change the games. But there is no VAR, so end of discussion.

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“There is no VAR so every decision that the referee will make cannot be overturned. We have to respect the decision that he makes.”

Though used in the Champions League, Europa League and across domestic competitions from England's Premier League to the Cypriot First Division, it is only expected to be used once in this year’s UEFA Conference League – during next month’s final.

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