Neil Lennon has backed Aberdeen’s call for VAR and also expressed sympathy for the likes of Derek McInnes and Steve Clarke who are the latest Scottish managers to go to war with the SFA over a disciplinary process that has been described as confusing, frustrating and inconsistent by the Hibs manager.
Pittodrie boss McInnes was infuriated by what he said was the “incompetency” of the appeal process after the review panel failed to overturn Michael Devlin’s red card, picked up in a defeat to Kilmarnock earlier this month, while his Rugby Park counterpart Clarke has also ripped into the game’s hierarchy following the decision to uphold Gary Dicker’s two-match suspension for serious foul play, ruling him out of this afternoon’s trip to face Hibs.
Lennon expressed sympathy for the views of both men saying the treatment of this afternoon’s managerial rival in particular was particularly galling as he now faces a disciplinary charge of his own for suggesting that the outcome of the hearing had been pre-determined, adding that Willie Collum’s initial red-card decision had “lacked a calm and rational approach from such an experienced official”.
Clarke also questioned if there was a double standard in the way the country’s preeminent clubs were dealt with compared to the more provincial teams, saying that “small clubs like Kilmarnock may be fair game”.
Lennon is no stranger to run ins with the game’s governing body but said that the fact that someone like Clarke was now speaking out so vehemently was noteworthy and indicated the growing frustration in the way disciplinary matters are now being handled.
“It’s ridiculous. Some managers are mild mannered…some aren’t. Some are outspoken but I certainly wouldn’t put Steve in that latter category. He is very articulate and he’s normally very calm, so there’s a frustration there. And I didn’t think there was a lot wrong with his statement either. Why he is getting hauled over the coals I do not know.
“It is a pressure job and we’re looking for consistency. In this case I think they’ve been wronged.”
The Hibs boss said the new interpretation of rules, which means that players kicking out can be exonerated if it is considered “petulance” and they are not deemed to be using “excessive force”, had only added to the confusion, allowing the likes of Allan McGregor to escape punishment for lashing out, while his Ibrox team-mate Alfredo Morelos saw his red card downgraded from a red to yellow card on appeal.
Lennon added that the fact Rangers boss Steven Gerrard escaped charges following his claims that refereeing decisions had been going against Rangers “for seasons” and predicting it would be the case again throughout this term, but Clarke is now in the dock for his comments only added to the bewilderment.
“All of a sudden you think: ‘Is there an agenda here?’ I get that because it is really difficult to differentiate the two.”
But he says VAR could be the way forward, allowing officials to rectify their own errors and diminish the need for the appeals panel.
“I thought it was a success at the World Cup and the majority of the decisions were right. Ultimately it is still the referees decision but VAR means they are able to go and have a look at it if they are unsure. I’m sure it would be a help to referees if we could get it here. We have seen some decisions already this season that we feel as managers are just wrong. The Gary Dicker one stands out for me. It was a strong tackle but it wasn’t dangerous and it wasn’t high and, for me, he got plenty of the ball.
“I understand that referees have a split second decision to make but I think VAR would be a great help to them. It is whether we can afford it or not. But if you look at the goal we didn’t get at Hearts last year, there were four monitors behind me and those guys could see that right away so when there are live games around the country, I don’t see why the referees can’t use those monitors. That would be affordable because they were there for me to have a look at straight away.”