Don't hold your breath for VAR gamechanger in Celtic matches despite recent progress

By John McGinley

February 4, 2023

A lot’s been made of the recent FIFA trial to introduce VAR decision communication directly from referees at the ongoing Club World Cup, but it still feels like a pipe dream for Celtic and Scottish football.

If you’re not aware, with the blessing of IFAB, tests are ongoing to explore the viability of officials giving the reason for VAR-level decisions in real-time on broadcasts and even over stadium PA systems.

Ostensibly a fantastic idea, once you explore the concept, it’s actually rather underwhelming and a far cry from what we really need in football – including in Scotland.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

In the current trial, referees will only give a short synopsis of what the infraction is i.e. if a player is given a red card for handball, that is what will be said. There will be no reasoning behind the decision given, as we see in rugby.

High-level rugby provides an audio feed of the conversations between officials. It’s an entertaining transparency that would be an absolute game-changer for VAR and its perception. Finally, we could perhaps start to understand why referees make the decisions they do.

Unfortunately, I’m not even confident of Scottish football even introducing the watered-down FIFA version, never mind the rugby experience. They just don’t have the bottle.

The Scottish FA’s roll-out of VAR in Scotland tells me they enjoy silence far more than transparency and accountability. Could you really see Willie Collum address the crowd at Celtic Park to explain his latest breathtakingly bad call? As if they’d let that happen.

Right now, Scottish football doesn’t even follow the MLS model of releasing VAR audio after matches. They do that on YouTube for the biggest calls and have trialled a full rugby-style set-up in live matches. In Scotland, there’s no sign that kind of thing has even been seriously considered despite the technology requirements not being that complex.

As far as I’m concerned, actual transparency is probably a non-starter in Scottish football unless clubs really make a push for it to be introduced. And do they really have the appetite? I’m not sure they do. The hush-hush approach seems to be the comfortable one for everyone here.

In other news, Ange Postecoglou isn’t issuing a Celtic transfer ‘warning’ to fans; there is nothing to fear.