Why Bojan Miovski VAR shambles is another kick in the teeth for Scottish football fans

Aberdeen no-goal decision shows exactly why supporters are running out of patience with video technology

Last-minute winners used to be great. Ask any football supporter, and they’ll tell you there’s nothing quite like seeing your team snatch victory at the death, no matter how badly they’ve played for the preceding 90 minutes. But at the Tony Macaroni Arena on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t celebrate Bojan Miovski’s acrobatic ‘winner’ in the way I should have.

Sure, the ‘goal’ got me off my seat. It was undoubtedly the highlight of what had been another grim Livingston-Aberdeen tussle on the artificial surface and amid howling winds. And some of my fellow Aberdeen supporters did celebrate wildly, running down to the front of the East Stand and jumping on Miovski after he’d executed his Cristiano Ronaldo ‘Siuuu’ twirl in the air. But I was far more restrained.

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Why? Because of VAR. I knew a check would be incoming. It always is after a goal nowadays. It was my big worry before Scottish football introduced video assistant referees – that I would no longer celebrate goals in the way I used to for fear of seeing it chopped off a couple of minutes later, and, sadly, so it has proved.

Aberdeen's Bojan Miovski celebrates scoring a late winner at Livingston before it was ruled offside by VAR. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)Aberdeen's Bojan Miovski celebrates scoring a late winner at Livingston before it was ruled offside by VAR. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)
Aberdeen's Bojan Miovski celebrates scoring a late winner at Livingston before it was ruled offside by VAR. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)

The check duly came after Miovski’s close-range scissors-kick that looked to have given the Dons a precious 1-0 win in their battle to avoid getting truly sucked into the Premiership’s relegation battle. Both sets of players hung around on the pitch waiting for the referee to make his move. In the stands, we had no idea why the goal was being checked. We presumed there must have been a marginal offside call to mull over but we weren’t sure. A friend has since told me that the Tony Macaroni Tannoy informed supporters that an offside was being checked, but I certainly didn’t hear it from my seat.

After getting word in his earpiece from Clydesdale House, referee Graham Grainger eventually signalled for an offside. The linesman had got it wrong. No goal. As you were. 0-0. No last-minute winner after all, and we all trudged out of the away end disappointed that someone had strayed into an offside position before Miovski had so expertly pulled the trigger. Ach well, on to next week.

But wait a minute. What’s this I’m seeing on Sportscene when I get back to the house? Aberdeen substitute Angus MacDonald is the one who was adjudged to have been offside when Leighton Clarkson floated a free-kick to the back post, however it’s impossible to tell from the television footage whether the defender was ahead of Livingston midfielder Daniel McKay. Pundit Neil McCann certainly wasn’t convinced MacDonald was offside.

Sportscene asked the Scottish FA for images of the offside lines that were used by VAR to determine that the goal should be disallowed, but the programme said the governing body had apparently declined to provide them because the offside was so obvious! That sounded bizarre. And it sounded even more bizarre on Wednesday afternoon when Aberdeen released a statement on the incident.

The Dons told supporters that the SFA admitted in a meeting earlier this week that VAR overruled on-field officials despite having no “reliable calibrated lines”. The Hawkeye system had failed and so VAR had effectively “guessed” whether MacDonald was offside from a dodgy freeze-frame image. VAR made Grainger change his on-field decision even though, according to Aberdeen, the SFA conceded “there is no conceivable way” they could tell whether MacDonald or McKay’s body was closer to the goal. They guessed! VAR made the referee change his on-field decision and rule out a last-minute winner on the basis of a hunch.

The SFA claimed on Wednesday night that, as part of its review into the incident, “retrospective” Hawkeye footage had “validated” the decision and that MacDonald was indeed offside. But it’s little wonder Aberdeen felt compelled to address their fans.

The Pittodrie club said in the statement what a lot of supporters have been thinking for a long time now - that Scottish football’s version of VAR is not fit for purpose. The Dons added: “It perfectly highlights the limitations in the technology, the inappropriate implementation, the consistency of decision-making and the negative impact on the overall experience for the match-going supporter.” Hear hear.

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In the wake of the statement, many Aberdeen supporters on social media were all saying the same thing - “get VAR in the bin”. It seems highly unlikely, given the time and money that clubs have invested in the system, that VAR is going to get scrapped by the decision makers in Scottish football. Above all else, they wouldn’t want to risk getting left behind all those other countries who have implemented it. But if the system doesn’t improve soon and the errors don’t stop then some supporters, surely, will say enough is enough and they’ll stop turning up.

Miovski’s last-gasp volley should have been a rare highlight for Aberdeen supporters in what has been a fairly miserable season. I only half-celebrated the goal in case VAR spotted an infringement and then chopped it off. Now it turns out VAR officials weren't sure if there was an infringement but chopped it off anyway. The £27.50 match ticket should have come with a health warning.

Scott Coull is Sports Production Manager for The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday



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