The fallout from last Sunday’s Old Firm game has been quite spectacular.
Many discussion points have been put out there, but the one I’d like to focus on is Rangers’ call for the introduction of VAR.
I fully understand where they are coming from.
In this day and age, if we can reduce the chances of goals being given that should have been disallowed – in this case Celtic’s for a handball by Odsonne Edouard that was missed – then we can’t ignore it.
Also, if players are being wrongly red-carded, it makes sense to review the incident immediately to reach the right outcome.
VAR has been on the go in the English Premier League since the start of the season.
It’s fair to say it’s had its teething problems, and has caused controversy.
Indeed, some observers would go so far as to say it has caused turmoil all over the country.
So it does need to be fine-tuned, and a few things have to be addressed.
It is helpful, for sure, but it is far from perfect.
Therefore, with a lot of work still to be done on it, I don’t think introducing it to Scottish football in the middle of this campaign is the answer.
It might do more harm than good.
For a start, you would need to train up the referees and other officials on the workings of it.
You can’t just throw in VAR after the winter break and tell them all to get on with it.
There is also the affordability aspect. Is it the best way for Scotland’s football hierarchy to be spending the game’s money?
Apart from the extra staff required and the wages involved, there would be the cost of technology.
If you want to be fair to the supporters, you would need to install two big screens in every stadium, so that when VAR is being used, they could be kept informed and even watch the incident.
There is nothing worse than being in a ground when you have no idea what the officials are checking for.
It will take a lot of planning and investment before we see VAR in the Scottish game.
But it should be explored in detail to see if it is right for the SPFL Premiership. With all the facts in front of the hierarchy, a decision can then be made.
And calls for VAR to only be used in the final two Old Firm games of the season should be considered a non-starter.
Going back to the game at Celtic Park, VAR would have most definitely have ruled out Edouard’s equaliser.
I’m not going to berate referee, Kevin Clancy, for missing the handball.
It was an honest mistake. But VAR does clear that kind of thing up, and it is factual.
There are other decisions that are left open to opinion and interpretation, important calls that are still being made by a human being.
So some will clearly still be up for debate despite VAR.
We’ve seen goals ruled offside due to a millimetre of the heel of a player’s boot looking as though it’s offside.
That is wrong, and there must be more leeway given to the attacking player.
I’d also tell the assistant referees not to flag unless a player is more than three yards offside.
Otherwise let play flow and VAR can review if a goal is scored or a penalty is awarded.
There was an incident at Leicester versus Everton recently when the assistant flagged, but Leicester played on and scored. Everton claimed their players stopped playing.
VAR then reviewed, found the player to be onside and the goal stood.
So there are plenty of flaws which need ironed out, and a lot needs to be done before we ever see it in Scottish football.
Away from all the controversy surrounding last Sunday’s Old Firm game, there is now a real title race on.
Steven Gerrard and his players clearly showed that their performance in the Betfred Cup Final was no fluke.
Even though they lost that game 1-0, they clearly left Hampden with plenty of confidence and optimism.
Rangers have now well and truly thrown down the gauntlet to Celtic.
Neil Lennon and his players know they are in a fight to make it to nine-in-a-row, but they shouldn’t be underestimated.
Neil is too good a boss, and in charge of too talented a squad, for there to be too many accusations thrown their way.
They lost to Rangers, but had won the previous two meetings this season.
It is still all to play for.
Neil and Steven are now on their winter break, knowing that the destination of the title is in their own hands.
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