VAR and Scottish football: Postecoglou, Maloney and Neilson have shown their hand - but contention surrounds one key factor

With just over a handful of games to go before the season reaches its conclusion, there are few, if any, managers who have not questioned a key refereeing decision throughout a competitive campaign, either publicly lambasting the officials or simply heading home furious about a moment that cost them points.

In a season when a single point could prove the difference between top six and bottom six, and the late opportunity to contest a European spot, it is likely that some of those memories will fester.

Which is why so many of the top-flight managers, whose clubs will be the focus if the proposal to introduce VAR is adopted by SPFL clubs when they put the issue to a vote on April 19, have made it known that they are in favour.

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As it stands, VAR could be integrated into the Scottish top flight immediately after this year’s World Cup break after the SPFL circulated a resolution to all 42 member clubs on Monday, which will be voted on at their general meeting.

Hibs were the first club to come out in favour of the in-game video analysis after the vote was publicised. But their manager, Shaun Maloney, had already done so long before the governing body got its act together. And, he was, by no means a lone voice.

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou made a January assertion that VAR would cut the number of wild tackles, insisting: “Most countries have VAR now and those kind of things don’t escape punishment anymore. That’s the right way to go about it. If you have VAR, what you see is less and less of them. Here in Scotland we obviously don’t have VAR.”

Moreover, Hearts boss Robbie Neilson recently claimed he would “love it to happen,” offering his opinion that Scottish club’s “need to do it to step forward”.

The plan, should 75 per cent of Premiership clubs, 75 per cent of the Championship and 75 per cent of Leagues One and Two combined vote in favour, is to introduce the technology for all top-flight games when the Premiership action resumes post-Qatar.

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.

And, on immediate review, that is where the contention already kicks in. As it stands, it is understood that lower league clubs will not stand in the way. but given the fact they will be left on the outside looking in – like the officials holed up in a VAR nerve centre in Glasgow – if and when the system is up and running is why should they have such a strong opportunity to veto.

It is another example of the SPFL making things more fraught than necessary, while the decision to kick things off mid-season also offers the possibility for more controversy – throwing up that phrase ‘sporting integrity’ again. An obvious goal stands earlier in the season to give one team the points, but VAR disallows a similar instance late in the campaign and those issues decide the league, or relegation, or Europe, or even just a league placing and the subsequent financial rewards. No doubt there will be consternation. It is an unnecessary spark in a game that is already so flammable.

Nevertheless, the sense of urgency is understandable, given the number of errors in games this season and the after-the-fact trial by television that highlights the problems but is unable to redress them.

This was heightened after the weekend when Livingston were left fuming over a penalty that wasn’t given against St Johnstone after one of the most blatant handballs.

“Everyone in the stadium including the seagulls knew it was a penalty,” fumed Livi manager David Martindale. “The significance of that decision could be massive for this football club – I’m fuming.”

“They (officials) are only human beings, I get that … but the sooner we get VAR in Scottish football the better.”

In the hurry to rush it through, is about getting more things right as soon as possible, even if the timing is imperfect. And, woe betide anyone if they prove themselves blinder than the McDiarmid Park seagulls and fail to read the room.

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