First Touch

Scottish Football Clubs Bemoan VAR..Again

Motherwell became the latest club in Scottish football to call into question a recent VAR decision.

In a sign the video system causes controversy outside of matches involving Celtic and Rangers, the Steelmen hierarchy issued a statement this week after VAR led match referee Willie Collum to overrule his decision to allow what had been their tying goal against Aberdeen on Saturday.

’Well, a side desperate for points, as they sit just five above the relegation play-off places, ended up losing the match at Fir Park 1-0.

camera for VAR in scottish football

The Full Scottish

At issue was an apparent (and debatable) handball by Theo Bair early in the lead-up play before the goal was scored. As the club statement notes, Bair’s touch on the ball appears to be anything but deliberate as “the ball only glances his shoulder as he attempts to head it.”

The club adds, “It also had no impact on the next phase of play when the goal was scored.”

Apologies to Celtic’s Tomoki Iwata if he’s triggered by this column.

“Whilst we do accept that all decisions, particularly in relation to handball, are subjective … [w]e … do not believe this incident meets the ‘clear and obvious’ error threshold that all clubs’ signed up to when VAR was introduced, at a significant cost to each club,” the Motherwell statement continues. 

“We fully understand that individual decisions made during games will always be open to interpretation and that it is unlikely that universal consensus will ever be reached. We are however concerned that rules are being interpreted differently, even during the same game, there is a high level of inconsistency in decision making and that the threshold for VAR intervention appears to be moving.”

Human Error

As we’ve mentioned in this space previously, the purpose of VAR was to limit human error and assist referees in making challenging decisions. However, instead of bringing clarity to match officiating, the technology has only fueled further debate.

Motherwell are only the latest club to question a decision involving video review. Celtic and Rangers have both lodged complaints in recent months, and Ross County, St. Mirren and Hibs are among those who have also registered disappointment earlier this season. And the issue of “cost” raised in the Motherwell statement isn’t insignificant. Many of Scotland’s top flight clubs operate on tight margins, including several who believe they have been victimized by VAR at some point this term.

Ross County faces possible relegation at the end of the campaign, an outcome that would deal the Highlands club a significant financial blow. A lost point or two linked with a questionable VAR decision could be crucial. And if that doesn’t move SFA officials, perhaps the end of Motherwell’s recent statement will:

“There are many potential consequences of some of these decisions, but we are most concerned that the inconsistency of decision making, regular lengthy VAR interventions during most games and lack of any clarity on why decisions have been made, is having a serious impact on fans’ enjoyment of the game. The feedback we receive from our own fans on VAR is almost entirely negative and, if given a choice, we believe most would vote to no longer have it in use. It’s actually not easy to find anyone who either participates in football or watches it who is happy with the current position.”

Hear, hear.

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