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Former SFA Chief Exec calls for VAR after Celtic decision

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After the pain of watching Celtic lift the League Cup on Sunday Gordon Smith has revealed that he proposed VAR technology a decade ago.

Going by the logic of the former SFA chief executive Neil Lennon’s side wouldn’t have scored through Chris Jullien with the trophy going to Ibrox thanks to the strike from an unknown goal-scorer.

In an interview with the Daily Record Smith neatly sidesteps the repeated brutality of Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield. Had an English VAR panel been involved at Hampden both players would probably have been sent off with the Colombian unable to win and miss the 63rd minute penalty.

Had Willie Collum did his job properly or VAR been applied Morelos would have been sent off before half-time giving Celtic a one-man advantage rather than playing the last half hour a player down.

The SFA and SPFL have taken a vow of silence over VAR despite the system being used later this season at Hampden in the Euro 2020 Play Off against Israel then in the group stage and last 16 match played at the home of the SFA.

In February Celtic’s Europa League Round of 32 matches will be played with Video Assistant Referees. At the start of this season Jozo Simunovic was given a domestic suspension for a VAR decision given in a friendly match played in Switzerland.

Discussing his history with the issue Smith told the Daily Record:

Celtic’s goal was definitely offside and it would have been confirmed by VAR, had it been available in Scottish football. I was a member of the UEFA and FIFA players’ committee in 2009 when I proposed video analysis should be considered to improve the decision-making in football.

It was rejected by the rest of the panel because it would ‘spoil football’. I argued Hawk-Eye technology had improved tennis but Beckenbauer insisted they were both very different sports.

I was motivated to act by Ireland’s defeat against France in the play-offs for the 2010 World Cup, when Thierry Henry clearly handled the ball for the decisive goal. I suggested each technical area be allowed three dispute calls in every game but they didn’t want to know. The committee was made up of some giants of the game – if it was a team, I’d never have been picked.

However, they exposed the mindset so prevalent in football in which every new idea, no matter how valid, is initially rejected. It’s a bit dispiriting to see VAR eventually introduced in so many countries and yet Scotland has been very slow to bring it in.

They talk about the training and cost but I still don’t see why we can’t introduce a form of it at the top level. Everyone sitting at home knew within seconds the goal was offside, so why couldn’t someone transmit that message immediately to the referee?

They’ll argue they need so many cameras at so many games to cover all the angles, but it’s more of an issue at the big games when there’s complete camera coverage. Away from those games, it becomes a pub argument.

I believe the decision proved decisive as Rangers would’ve gone on to win had the goal been called offside. Celtic were not an attacking force and created very little but after opening the scoring they were able to drop back and hang on in defence, especially when they went down to 10 men. I don’t like to see any game won by a goal that shouldn’t have been allowed.”

Malta and Cyprus are among the UEFA nations using VAR this season.

After a brief spell as Director of Football with Rangers Smith now writes a column for the Sunday Post and is a regular on PLZ Soccer with Peter Martin and Alan Rough.

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