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Sir Kenny Dalglish: After Celtic ‘offside’ comments, referees’ chief will have to speak out a lot more often

© SNS GroupBobby Madden and Robbie Neilson didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye
Bobby Madden and Robbie Neilson didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye

Referees in the SPFL Premiership have dominated the headlines many times this season.

It seems as though every top-flight manager has had his say on them at some stage – and quite a bit has been far from complimentary.

As far back as September, Motherwell boss, Graham Alexander hit out at the officials after a game at Ibrox when a goal from Fashion Sakala – he believed was obviously offside – was allowed to stand.

In the past fortnight alone, there has been Kyogo’s “offside” winner against Hearts, with Jambos boss, Robbie Neilson – not for the first time – at loggerheads with the match officials.

Bobby Madden was the man in the middle that night at Parkhead.

He was also in charge when he showed Aberdeen’s Funso Ojo a red card for an alleged incident with a Dundee United supporter.

Then, back at Tannadice last weekend, Don Robertson should have red-carded Callum Butcher for a late lunge on Celtic’s David Turnbull, but the player only received a yellow.

The SFA compliance officer intervened, and handed the United man a retrospective charge that resulted in a three-game ban.

Yes, it’s been quite a spell.

To top it all off, the SFA head of refereeing, Crawford Allan, took to national radio to explain how he felt that Madden should have disallowed Celtic’s winner against Hearts as “it was probably offside”.

This is the first time Allan has said anything of note in a long, long time.

Some found it strange that he chose to go public on this one incident when dozens of other things have not been tackled in public by him.

It’s good that Allan came out and spoke – but he will now be expected to do that with every contentious incident.

This cannot be a one-off from him.

I just hope that he spoke to Bobby Madden before he took to the airwaves.

To offer an accurate opinion, he would surely have to consult the whistler first to get his side of the story?

Crawford Allan (Pic: SNS Group)

For me, all of this furore just confirms the need to introduce VAR to Scottish football.

The clubs will vote on it in February, and I’m told that every senior referee in Scotland wants it to be introduced.

I totally understand why.

Just like every player on the pitch, they too are prone to human error, and any help they can get needs to be looked at carefully.

The sooner VAR is rubber-stamped by the authorities, the better.

It is now utilised in many leagues around Europe, and in UEFA club competitions, to help referees reach the right decision.

As long as referees put getting big calls correct before their own egos, then Scottish football will be fine.

Remember, VAR is there to get the right decision. It’s not there to undermine or embarrass referees. It’s there to assist them.

It took a bit of time to work in England, but – with a bit of patience, education and understanding – they got there, and it is working very well these days.

I’m sure it will be the same in Scotland.

It will take the best part of six months to train all officials in the workings of VAR. So it’s not an overnight fix.

There has been enough controversy in Scottish football this season to last another two or three campaigns.

Let’s hope they are not still making the headlines in the weeks and months to come.

I’m sure that we would all much rather prefer to be reading about the star performers on the park than the men in black.