Craig Levein wants VAR introduced after new year summit

Craig Levein is hoping that sense will prevail when Scottish football gets together in the new year to address the ongoing issues between managers and referees and insists the introduction of VAR would be the ideal way to minimise ongoing conflict.

The Hearts manager, whose team host Hamilton today looking for only their second victory since October, has been a vocal critic of officiating standards on several occasions this season and faces a disciplinary hearing early in the new year as a consequence. But he has not been the only manager to speak out and a catalogue of high-profile decisions have been publicly dissected in recent weeks, denting the referees’ reputation and damaging the relationship between clubs and officials.

That prompted SFA chief executive Iain Maxwell to call a January summit as he tries to heal the growing rift and Levein says he would be surprised if most of those present did not back a move towards the introduction of VAR.

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He believes that video technology is the only common sense answer to the growing problem. “I’m hoping that the VAR discussions come up with the correct conclusion, which is – without doubt – that we introduce VAR to Scottish football. It’s one of those situations where, if it happens, we can look forward with positivity.

Hearts manager Craig Levein speaks to referee John Beaton ahead of kick off at Pittodrie. Picture: Bruce White/SNS
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“A lot of the issues surrounding after match press conferences in football matches are about refereeing decisions and that’s not just up here in Scotland. But in the places that have VAR you can actually say they got it right.

“So I would hope that everyone who goes along to this summit… does summat.”

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Levein admits he is becoming annoyed with the ongoing disagreements with referees but says he will not simply pipe down while he feels unjust decisions are impacting on the outcome of games.

“Nothing has changed in my view. It’s just more annoying,” he said, insisting that he was not simply moaning for the sake of it.

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“It’s a hundred per cent to try to get VAR in. And I’ll keep going. Because there can’t be any reasonably minded person who doesn’t want something which ensures we get the correct decisions in matches as much as possible.

“It helps the referees as well. For me, if I was a referee I would want it immediately. I wouldn’t want to go home on a Saturday night having made a mistake, then watch it on the telly and have people pillorying me. No human being wants that to happen. So the sooner we get VAR in it helps the referees, it makes me feel better, because I know we’re going to get the correct decisions.”

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Levein accepts that there are cost implications and knows it would take some time to implement but says that makes it even more vital to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later.

“I understand that but my point is let’s just make the right decision first, and then we can work on whatever has to be done to get everything up and running after that.

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“We need to make this decision as quickly as possible, then we can start putting everything else in place.

“There’s a lot of money swirling about the game at the moment and, something like this, even if it costs £1 million to £1.5m to bring in, surely it’s the most important thing. It protects the integrity of the game and I don’t think anyone can argue against it. I haven’t heard anyone put up a reasonable argument against it.”

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The summit is scheduled for after the winter break and in the meantime Levein is hoping his own men can control their own destiny, and rebuild some confidence ahead of the January shutdown.

Hearts have two games before then; today’s home match against Hamilton and then the weekend trip across the city for the final capital derby of 2018 against Hibs.

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“It has been a really weird season. We started it on fire and then we have had loads of problems and we have been suffering from a lack of confidence. I have been watching a lot of the games from earlier in the season and I saw at Aberdeen some of that coming back and if we can get a win against Hamilton it will set us up nicely for going into the Hibs match.”

Arnaud Djoum returns to the squad having served his ban, while others like long-term injury victims Steven Naismith and Jamie Brandon are looking to build on their return to the side at Pittodrie.

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“We have hit a bad run, which can happen to most teams, but we need to work on that,” said Brandon, the young full-back, who had been sidelined with a ruptured ACL since February. “We have been struggling a bit to get results but if we keep working hard and doing the right things then it will eventually turn around for us.

“I think it would be really helpful for the team to get a couple of wins before the break, push ourselves up the table and towards a top-
four spot.

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“If we are struggling, then the winter break is a long time to mull it over and think about it.”