The VAR imbalance that Celtic will be dealing with next season
The VAR implementation is almost guaranteed to be a rocky and dramatic affair next season, not least because it is being introduced halfway through the campaign, after the World Cup.
However, that’s not the only lop-sided nature of its arrival in Scotland with reports today bringing to light another imbalance.
The Sunday Post reports that at a minimum six cameras will be in place around every Scottish top-flight ground. That was known, but the kicker is that it’s also stated games given live coverage on Sky Sports will have 14 cameras and all of them can be used by SFA officials. [Print edition, Post Match supplement page 3]
It creates a situation where some games are more likely to see correct decisions made than others, potentially opening a whole can of worms and setting the stage for even more bickering about officials than we have now.
You can envisage a scenario where Celtic, or any club, gets the benefit of a VAR decision that a rival near them in the table doesn’t get in a similar situation because there were fewer cameras at the game – or vice versa. That’s going to create a media storm and put even more pressure on everyone.
It should be a system equal across the board that is introduced from the start of a season. More than double the amount of VAR cameras at Sky games versus most others seems less than ideal.
Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows has also moved to temper expectations of its effectiveness.
He told The Sunday Post [Print edition, Post Match supplement page 3]: “There will be one camera in line with each 18-yard box, which should help with offside calls. We’ve already had people round at Fir Park, checking where the other cameras should go.
“However, with only six, it may be that those angles are sometimes inconclusive, and fans need to understand that. But the probability clearly is that there will be more chance of offences and infringements being spotted.
“VAR was never meant to be the silver bullet which will make everything perfect. The suggestion is that it will improve referees’ success rate with decisions from 92% to 99%, so that’s got to be worth trying. I’m not saying it’s an inferior version of VAR, because it will make our game better. There’s so much money riding on the outcome of these calls that they have to be the right ones.
“We’ve all seen English games where the notice ‘ VAR check: possible penalty’ or whatever is displayed on the giant screens inside the stadium. But not all of our clubs have those. For example, we only have an electronic scoreboard. The supporters who pay to get into matches are the most important people of all, so we must find a way to make everyone who comes along aware of what is going on as it happens.”
I’ve been a supporter of bringing VAR into Scottish football over the last few years, chiefly because it’s silly for our game to be left behind by leagues all over the world.
However, this imbalanced introduction I feel will initially cause more trouble than it’s worth. It will get better in time, but strap in for a season of drama and fireworks.
I think a few statements will be issued along the way.