Europa League holds the cards to Scotland’s VAR future

By Calum Brown

Celtic and Rangers are in Europa League action on Thursday, with Video Assistant Referee (VAR) one of the main talking points ahead of the fixtures.

The Scottish champions travel to the Danish capital to take on FC Copenhagen, while Rangers host Portuguese side Braga, with both matches using the relatively new technology.

Scotland’s top two have never been involved in a match with VAR in place, which has raised much debate over the system, with many calling for it to be implemented in the Ladbrokes Premiership in the near future.

Former Scottish FA referee Derek Crothers believes that the introduction of VAR in Scotland would have a positive impact, if used correctly, even though it may not necessarily improve the standard of refereeing completely.

He commented: “VAR would be a welcome addition to Scottish football. Any tool which gives an official a chance to minimise or change a major error in a match should be embraced by open arms. 

“A negative opinion has been formed in Scotland from watching the implementation of VAR in England. Our English counterparts are not using the equipment correctly. 

“If implemented in Scotland, it is imperative that the match official is allowed to utilise pitch-side monitors to review decisions, like in the UEFA Champions League, where it has a much more positive impact on matches.”

The 37-year-old, who once refereed Liverpool’s Andy Robertson in an Under 17 Cup Final, feels the Scottish FA could do more to improve the standard of officiating, with the potential introduction of VAR a step in the right direction.

However, he believes referees in Scotland should be cut some slack, and claims that they aren’t too far off the level of officials south of the border, despite those in England being full-time.

He said: “The current standard of officiating in Scotland is about average to good in my opinion, however I do believe a constant strive to be better can be achieved. A bigger impetus from the Scottish FA should be taken. 

“Too many officials are making major errors in matches, with no accountability and are continuously receiving the top matches in the country. The best performing officials should be receiving the top matches, which in turn will make officials strive to be better in their own performances.

“Our top officials are giving full-time commitment to refereeing without the title of being full-time. To make it as a top-grade official in Scotland, our guys are committing to training five times a week, sometimes with double sessions, attending coaching sessions, monthly meetings, advanced training days at weekends and that is all before actually officiating at a match, sometimes twice in the one week, whilst holding down full-time employment. 

“South of the border, officials are full-time and in my opinion are no better or worse than the officials we have in Scotland. The analysis in Scotland by media and pundits is far more intense, especially when you have two giant powerhouses in Scotland with Celtic and Rangers, and all the society issues that come from ‘The Old Firm’.”

The abundance of criticism is enough to put anyone off becoming an official, but Crothers states that the profession has changed his life for the better, despite some sleepless nights throughout his career, and has encouraged football lovers to get involved in the hope the Scottish FA can attract a new generation of top referees.

“Referees are deeply affected when they make major errors in a match or have a negative impact on a match. I had many weekends that were ruined because of a match performance. You just have to try and turn it around and try learn from that mistake and try and stop it from happening again in a match.

“I would encourage anyone to give refereeing a try. It came along at a time in my life that changed my whole world. I was on a pathway that could very easily lead towards a life of crime and zero prospects in life. It gave me a structure, a goal and turned my whole life around.”

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