Scotland too desperate to copy Premier League that they’re repeating the same VAR mistakes

The Scottish Premiership will introduce VAR in December after failing to heed the many warnings of its unpopular and bungled usage in England.


The news that VAR will be introduced into the Scottish top flight in December, after the World Cup, was very disappointing to say the least. The same system that has put a coitus interruptus into the Premier League will be applied to the 12 Premiership clubs. England’s second, third and fourth tiers, previously a haven of VAR-free football, should be worried. Scotland’s top flight bringing it in, with most of its teams playing in grounds of under 20,000 capacity and some under 10,000, could set a precedent for England, not least because the cost is being borne on a proportionate scale: the biggest (Celtic and Rangers) pay a lot more than the smallest (Ross County). Again, this sets a precedent.

While VAR seems to have been accepted in the Premier League – or should I say tolerated – I doubt many fans would think it a bad thing if it was abolished. There is little to no love for it. The principles of how it is used seem to change all the time, often contradicting what it has declared as its purpose, as it ponders for three minutes over something that is not a clear and obvious error, as it would be clear and obvious if it was.

In Scotland we could point to our game as free from the blight of VAR. In England, too many fans are too obsessed with the officials being biased against them and this has driven a belief that VAR will end such paranoia. It won’t. I mean, obviously, it won’t. We know that from the Premier League.

Gerrard calls for VAR in Scotland after controversial final

You know what’ll happen. When a VAR decision is made, the VAR will be accused by the same fans of being biased, just as the referee currently is. All it does is farm out the paranoia.

There is a widespread dissatisfaction with Scottish referees and there has been for decades. It has been said that they are simply not good enough and that is a view held very hard. Even if this is true, how would VAR help? It will be run by the same referees that people already think are not up to the job.

It is often thought that a lot of the referees are Rangers fans, that many are Freemasons and they all stick together. Rangers get more penalties and concede the fewest and this is offered up as proof of the official pro-Rangers bias. And don’t get me started on that wee numpty, Douglas Ross. But ask any fans of clubs that are not Celtic or Rangers and they’ll tell you it’s the Glasgow pair who always get the decisions. VAR won’t change any of that and it is a total misunderstanding of the culture of the game to think it will.

We'll see. If a Rangers or Celtic player does that with the game on the line, I bet VAR will rule that it wasn't a clear and obvious error

— Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) April 27, 2022

The mistake they made in the Premier League and are making in Scotland is in thinking that VAR will stop the complaints. People are just as dissatisfied with the Premier League decisions now as they were before VAR. A majority of fans think it has made football worse, so it follows that it will make Scottish football worse. There’ll be complaints that the VAR made one call in one game but didn’t make it in another. The same pleas for consistency will be made and the milk pan of outrage will boil over when fans see decisions made by the VAR that are inexplicably incorrect. It is one thing to get a call wrong in real time, quite another to get it wrong when you can see it in slow motion 10 times.

Do Scottish fans really want to be left in the dark for three minutes to know if they’ve scored or conceded a goal? All the energy drains out of a game as we wait, wait, wait. Time and again players are left standing around while the VAR sitting in Stockley Park surrounded by crumpled tissues and broken dreams pointlessly draws lines to prove someone was minutely offside even though it would gain them no advantage, when the law was only introduced to inhibit advantage. Does anyone really want that sinking feeling after you’ve scored a goal – everyone goes back to the half-way line and the referee doesn’t allow them to kick off again because the VAR is frotting itself over whether the hairs on someone’s leg were in front of the ball.

The problem is in Scotland, many club officials – the people who have voted for VAR to be introduced – have an inferiority complex. They’re jealous of the Premier League and its status, money and power, and so try to be like it.

It’s the same in lower-league English football. The Premier League has sold itself as the land of milk and honey and far too many at far too many clubs believe the lie. They worship at the altar of this greedy, amoral creation and see everything it does as touched by the golden hand of the Lord. So if the Holy Premier League thinks VAR is good, then they do, too. And from December, all they have to do is point to wee clubs like Ross County to prove to themselves and the far more cynical fans that it could work at their wee club. On top of that, there are so many bigger clubs in the lower leagues whose owners will think it makes them look hip to the modern groove to have VAR, like the successful top flight does.

Before you know it, VAR will be present at every game in four tiers of English football. The fans won’t be asked about this; we’re never asked about anything. It is always assumed that we will turn up and pay to see the game being spoiled.

Because Covid intervened and shut football down, the momentum against VAR died away in England. Scotland will almost certainly undergo the same cycle of hope, annoyance, dissatisfaction and anger and at that point, will hopefully pressure the SFA to abandon this faintly ludicrous, joy-stealing system. But by then, it may be too late. So much money will have been spent and the usual tedious arguments used to justify it will be made and until fans literally stop going, they’ll assume we’re just moaning for moaning’s sake.

But one day, they’ll push us too far.

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