A rare win for the SFA in Celtic cup victory but much more is needed

By John McGinley

February 27, 2023

You may have noticed that in the wake of Celtic’s fine Scottish League Cup victory there’s a conspicuous lack of noise surrounding a subject that often dominates the Scottish football media sphere – the officiating and VAR.

In the build-up to the match, much spotlight was put on referee Nick Walsh, his assistants and VAR operator John Beaton, including from ourselves.

For good reason, of course. Both named figures have been controversial in the past for high-profile and high-consequence decisions. That’s before you even consider that the roll-out of VAR technology has been frustrating for many teams and fans since its introduction.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Credit given – but let’s not go overboard

In the spirit of credit where it’s due, it should be noted that yesterday’s match passed without incident or drama on the refereeing front, which is usually a good indicator they got most calls correct.

Fans always have quibbles of course – it’s often felt a referee is too quick to blow against your team and the positioning of where free-kicks are taken can look odd in the moment.

There was one particular period of play where Rangers were able to take a free-kick for offside in their own half. That seemed absurd in the moment, though it has later been clarified by experts online such as Twitter user @deaks1ey that this is in line with the latest IFAB guidance.

The biggest call made came late in the match when Liel Abada was booked for simulation after going down in the box. Though naturally roared for at the time, replays showed it undoubtedly wasn’t a penalty.

The Celtic winger really should have made more of an attempt to stay on his feet – not least because it could have led to a third Bhoys goal.

For the large part, Walsh and his crew correctly called the 90 minutes. VAR was also far less intrusive than it has been, not really impacting the celebration of goals with needless, lengthy checks. Everything functioned as it should.

Some may see this as the bare minimum and there’s validity to that viewpoint. I certainly think some of the media commentaries of it being a “Champions League” calibre performance from the refereeing team is going slightly over the top. [Glasgow Times]

What we need from the Scottish FA and their officials is consistency in performance, rather than a decent showing in a one-off big game. Whether we get that or not moving forward has yet to be proven.

But, yes, I’m happy at least that the football itself took centre stage rather than a referee. Given some of the nonsense we’ve seen this season, that is refreshing in and of itself.

In other news, Callum McGregor’s ridiculous Hampden feat as captain makes late-night visit to Celtic trophy case.