SFA con­sid­ers in­tro­duc­tion of VAR into Scot­tish game

Sum­mit planned for Jan­uary next year

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By DAR­REN JOHN­STONE

Scot­tish FA chief ex­ec­u­tive Ian Maxwell has re­vealed the game’s gov­ern­ing bod­ies will con­sider in­tro­duc­ing Video As­sis­tant Ref­er­ees (VAR) in the wake of scathing crit­i­cism of match of­fi­cials.

A sum­mit in­volv­ing the Pre­mier­ship clubs and the rel­e­vant ref­er­ee­ing groups is planned for Jan­uary and dis­cus­sions will cen­tre on the fea­si­bil­ity of im­ple­ment­ing the tech­nol­ogy – which could cost £10,000 per match.

Ref­er­ees have come un­der fire for a host of high-pro­file er­rors this sea­son, with Hearts man­ager Craig Levein one of the most vo­cal crit­ics, ques­tion­ing the stan­dard of ref­er­ee­ing fol­low­ing re­cent games against Rangers and St John­stone.

Maxwell will now li­aise with Neil Don­caster, his coun­ter­part at the Scot­tish Pro­fes­sional Foot­ball League, over the po­ten­tial to of­fer of­fi­cials video as­sis­tance dur­ing games.

The SFA chief said: “It feels like there is a lot of neg­a­tiv­ity around any ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sion that is maybe not as good as it should be, for what­ever rea­son.

“I think there’s a view, cer­tainly within this build­ing, that we want to ad­dress that, want to stop that – and get ev­ery­body in the same room at the same time to talk through how we can un­der­stand is­sues, un­der­stand con­cerns, un­der­stand where each other is com­ing from.

“We dis­cussed VAR at a board meet­ing on Thurs­day and agreed that, along­side the SPFL, Neil Don­caster and I would go and have a se­ri­ous look at it.

“There is a bit of a myth out there that VAR is a great idea and we can do it for next sea­son. We would trial it in the back­ground at matches first, with­out an­nounc­ing we were us­ing it.

“It’s not as sim­ple as stick­ing a TV at the side of the pitch. Peo­ple need to be trained. We need to scope it out and there will be a fi­nan­cial im­pact. The cost comes out of the distri­bu­tion pot, so clubs will end up pay­ing for it them­selves.”

Speak­ing ear­lier yes­ter­day morn­ing, Levein had called for a sum­mit to dis­cuss the ref­er­ee­ing cri­sis and the po­ten­tial use of VAR.

The Tynecas­tle club feel they have been the vic­tims of poor de­ci­sions by of­fi­cials after a bla­tant off­side de­ci­sion went against Hearts in Sun­day’s nar­row de­feat by Rangers, be­fore An­drew Dal­las awarded a hugely con­tentious penalty in St John­stone’s favour in Wed­nes­day’s 2-2 stale­mate.

Levein also be­lieves the wealth­ier clubs in the Pre­mier­ship could con­trib­ute to the cost, cit­ing a pro­posal in the Nether­lands where Ajax, PSV Eind­hoven and Feyeno­ord would donate 10 per cent of their Cham­pi­ons League in­come to smaller clubs in re­turn for them rip­ping up their plas­tic pitches.

League lead­ers Kil­marnock and Aberdeen are among other clubs to have voiced con­cerns over the stan­dard of ref­er­ee­ing and Levein be­lieves a meet­ing of the game’s stake­hold­ers is needed.

Levein, whose side will seek to end a seven-game win­less run at home to Mother­well to­day, said: “I’ve spo­ken to two other Premier League man­agers and they are un­happy,

say­ing: how is it that we are al­ways the ones that suf­fer when some­thing like this hap­pens? We would like there to be talks about how we can make it bet­ter. Surely peo­ple can’t dis­agree with that.

“What hap­pens is it flares up, the ref­er­ees cir­cle the wag­ons, wait for it to go away, it goes away… and then it flares up again.

“Peo­ple say it’s just be­cause we’ve had a few bad de­ci­sions go against us. Well, I’ve spo­ken to other man­agers. And they’re not happy. And some­thing will hap­pen soon. I don’t know what. But we need to talk about the sit­u­a­tion, rather than bury­ing our heads in the sand. It’s the only in­dus­try in the world, and this is 2018, that there is no ac­count­abil­ity. The only in­dus­try in the world.

“In terms of the se­crecy, be­cause the rest of the world is chang­ing it be­comes an is­land that’s iso­lated.”

Re­fer­ring to the pro­posal in the Nether­lands re­gard­ing the use of plas­tic pitches, Levein in­sists he would be happy for Hearts to con­trib­ute.

Kil­marnock’s Steven Clarke has al­ready called for the £370,000 each top-fight team picked up on the back of Celtic’s Euro­pean­ef­fort­sto­bein­vested in goalline tech­nol­ogy.

Levein added: “I think VAR would help. If you’re a ref­eree, you get one shot at it. If you get it wrong, you get pil­lo­ried.

“I think it’s im­por­tant, when the amount of scru­tiny has in­creased, that the tools avail­able to ref­er­ees – tools that will help them get de­ci­sions right – should in­crease as well.

“I re­ally do think that for the ben­e­fit of the game, some- thing needs to be done and if it re­quires money I’ll ask if we would be pre­pared to con­trib­ute to that. The thing in Hol­land was re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing for me. The big­ger clubs that were in­volved in Europe saw it as a good thing to help.

“If we were sit­ting with bun­dles of money in the bank, I would be ask­ing [Hearts owner] Ann Budge. I’m sure that we would help in some way if we could. I’m a huge ad­vo­cate of Scot­tish foot­ball be­ing a good spec­ta­cle and be­ing some­thing that we are all proud of.”

Levein also be­lieves ref­er­ees should be al­lowed to ex­plain their de­ci­sion mak­ing to help calm flash­points.

He added: “I think in­ter­na­tional rugby is bril­liant, be­cause you can ac­tu­ally hear the ref­eree talk­ing, you can hear what their thought process is. We’re not al­lowed to hear that in foot­ball. What’s the dif­fer­ence? Why do we keep this se­cret in foot­ball? When you see that, in rugby, it ac­tu­ally works.

“And I’ll tell you an­other thing, play­ers and coaches get frus­trated with not get­ting an­swers. Ref­er­ees don’t speak to you. But you un­der­stand that hu­man con­tact is re­ally im­por­tant, to be able to defuse sit­u­a­tions.

“I re­mem­ber, as a young man­ager here maybe in 2001, a game when Wil­lie Young was still ref­er­ee­ing. I was jump­ing about on the touch­line, wav­ing myarms,shoutin­gand­bawl­ing be­cause some de­ci­sions were go­ing against us. He walked over and said to me: ‘Lis­ten. Have you never made a mis­take?’ All of a sud­den, the wind is right out of my sails. Be­cause what do you say? And I ac­tu­ally ended up apol­o­gis­ing to him.”

Video As­sis­tant Ref­er­ees were used at the World Cup in the sum­mer. But it is an ex­pen­sive sys­tem.

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