Yet Another SFA Failing – Scottish Football Simply Isn’t Ready For VAR

SFA Headquarters - Hampden Park

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The weekend’s League Cup semi-finals presented the SFA with perfect opportunity to showcase Scottish Football in the best possible light.

Four of the country’s top flight teams battling it out at the National Stadium for a place in next month’s final.

The prospect of a Glasgow Derby in the final a distinct possibility, but also a chance for Aberdeen and Kilmarnock to have their say.

So how did the SFA manage to let Scottish Football down?


Scottish Football Isn’t Ready For VAR

We were initially told that VAR would be introduced in Scottish Football following the World Cup in Qatar.

To bring in a whole new refereeing system midway through a season in the first place is and was a ludicrous decision.

How can half of a season be ruled in one way, and half in a completely different way?

It makes a farce of our competitions.


Reports then emerged in early October that the technology was “good to go” and that the SFA Head of Refereeing Crawford Allan and his cohorts had decided to “fast-track” its implementation.

VAR was then used in Scottish Football for the very first time on Friday October 21st 2022 as Hibs took on St Johnstone at Easter Road.

Some of the failings that have followed in the 12 weeks or so since then have been puzzling at best.

We view things here through a Celtic lens, but it’s not just Celtic who have been impacted by these poor decisions.

Far from it.

Semi-Final Failings

The SFA Refereeing Team at Hampden Semi-Final
The SFA Refereeing Team at Hampden Semi-Final

Here’s 3 examples of where VAR failed in this weekend’s semi-finals alone:

  • Communication between the referee (Nick Walsh) and the VAR officials at Clydesdale House goes down for 6 minutes during a national semi-final.
  • Ryan Kent has a swing (or two) at Liam Scales as Rangers v Aberdeen heads for extra time. No review by the VAR officials.
  • Giorgios Giakoumakis makes a very clumsy challenge in the Celtic penalty area in the closing minutes of our semi-final with Kilmarnock. Again, no VAR review.

Football’s a game of fine margins at the best of times and the award of a penalty kick, or the sending off of a player can have a huge impact on the result of any game.

It of course falls into the realm of “we’ll never know” but had a couple of decisions gone the other way at the weekend we could have been looking at an Aberdeen v Kilmarnock League Cup Final next month.

Meanwhile, had a contentious incident occurred during that 6 minute VAR blackout then the corresponding fallout would have been off the scale. And rightfully so.

The Ramifications of Getting Decisions Wrong

One of the most serious elements of getting major calls wrong is the very real possibility that it could cost some clubs millions of pounds.

These decisions could be the difference between European qualification or not.

The difference between relegation and staying up.

The difference between a club having to go part-time or not.

Celtic's Giorgos Giakolumakis Tangles With Kilmarnock's Joe Wright
Celtic’s Giorgos Giakoumakis Tangles With Kilmarnock’s Joe Wright

Scottish Football have brought VAR in to improve the game, to make it better, to get more decisions right than wrong.

There’s no doubt about that.

The intention is to bring Scottish Football in line with the other major nations already using the technology and they should be commended for doing so.

What we absolutely cannot accept however is any form of “VAR light” which – so far – is what we have been served.

Put simply, whether it’s the technology itself, the personnel, or the training, Scottish Football – at present – isn’t ready for VAR.

SFA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell told us that “the first three months are going to be horrendous”.

They were.

Head of Refereeing Crawford Allan told us “we will get more decisions right than wrong”

They haven’t.

Listen to the full debate now on the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly – “The SFA: Unaccountable, Incompetent & Invisible | Failing Scottish Football”.
Available on all major podcast players, here at The Celtic Exchange website, or by simply clicking the player below.


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