Scottish clubs ‘positive’ over VAR, so what next?

Scottish Premiership clubs have backed initial plans to introduce VAR after a meeting co-hosted by the Scottish FA and SPFL.

The 2010 World Cup final referee Howard Webb, who addressed the 12 clubs on the benefits of its introduction, revealed the feedback was in favour of the technology which he believes will “enhance” the Scottish game.

A formal proposal over how to introduce VAR in the top flight and at certain cup ties will now be finalised before being put to an SPFL vote.

Webb, who implemented VAR in the United States, told Sky Sports: “The process – which I’ve been a small part of so far – has made it clear to me that there is a lot of thought and consultation going into this.

“No one has rushed into anything and it has been a well-considered move. I certainly think it is value for money, will enhance the game and make the league better. It will also make the officials better at what they do and open up opportunities for officials on the global stage.

“Ultimately it is a decision for those in the SPFL but I sense from what I saw today, there’s a lot of positivity around this project which will hopefully get it over the line.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Highlights of the Scottish Premiership clash between Aberdeen and Celtic.

What happens next?

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster hopes VAR will be “introduced as soon as is practicably possible” in the top flight.

The dialogue between all parties will continue as formal plans are drafted before being put to an SPFL vote.

“This will not be an overnight process, bearing in mind the lengthy training and set-up that will be required,” Doncaster said.

What would VAR be used for?

VAR was successfully used at Hampden Park during Euro 2020
Image: VAR was successfully used at Hampden Park during Euro 2020

We have seen VAR implemented all over the world across many different leagues so you might know what to expect.

With an extra referee reviewing clear and obvious errors, ultimately it is there to give officials more support.

The baselines set out by FIFA for when a review may take place are limited to penalties, red cards, goal situations and any case of mistaken identity would be when a review may take place.

Could we see anything different in Scotland?

One frustration voiced by many fans is not knowing what is going on when an incident is being looked at. Well, that could change one day.

The Scottish FA and SPFL are exploring how to open up communication channels for fans watching on TV and at grounds.

FIFA are also reviewing this and looking at other ways to try and communicate what is happening, to ensure as much information as possible is being shared.

There will be subtle changes to an official's use of VAR this Premier League campaign
Image: Communication to fans at matches during VAR reviews could change in the future

Of course, like anything, these processes take time and would only be passed after consultation with FIFA – not to mention any pilot projects taking place beforehand also.

Where decisions are made is up for debate too. In the Premier League, all checks take place at a central hub, while in the MLS there is a VAR team are at each stadium.

What will it cost?

The Scottish FA have reiterated its offer of underwriting the training costs for match officials, with match costs being borne equally by Premiership clubs.

That fee could be around £80,000 per year for each of the 12 top-flight sides, with no other SPFL club expected to pay for the technology.

Are we ready for it?

Concerns have been raised over the number of cameras at stadiums, the amount of training needed and much more.

As it stands non-televised Scottish Premiership games have just four cameras but it is understood that wouldn’t be an issue with Webb confident the minimum requirements would be met if introduced.

We’ve already highlighted that VAR hubs could be located away from grounds – like in the Premier League – if space was an issue.

Not all grounds have goalline technology but leagues like the MLS have shown that issue could also be overcome.

VAR Technology during the Europa League Round of 32, 2nd Leg match between Celtic and FC Copenhagen at Celtic Park
Image: Space would be needed for VAR screens at grounds

Training will take time but Webb is confident that Scottish football will be ready, if VAR is given the green light.

He added: “There are some good quality people at the SFA involved in the training and development of the refereeing group who will absolutely make sure when this goes live the officials will be as trained as they need to be to make sure this is the positive I know it can be.

“I’m looking forward to seeing it come to life in the SPFL and I’m really confident it will be a net positive to the competition.”