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Men's Football Scottish clubs to have final say on whether to implement VAR

Bosses and officials both agree the technology is needed but the high cost remains a sticking point

The SFA and SPFL have already “started the ball rolling” on plans to introduce video assistant referees (VAR) — but the final call will rest with club owners.

The potential introduction of the replay technology was the main outcome of a meeting between Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell and top-flight managers and referees staged in Perth on Thursday night.

The get-together was called in a bid to clear the air between all parties following months of controversy in the wake of a string of debatable on-field decisions and contentious appeal outcomes.

Bosses and officials both agreed the best way to improve the situation in future was to give referees more back-up through VAR.

Maxwell and his opposite number at the Scottish Professional Football League Neil Doncaster have already joined together to launch a feasibility study — but the main sticking point remains the cost.

The initial price tag of setting up VAR at the grounds of Scotland’s 12 top-flight clubs is set to top £1 million.

And a Hampden source admits the decision on whether that sum is paid ultimately rests with club owners.

“Thursday’s meeting was a good opportunity to hear what managers and referees thought,” they said.

“But ultimately clubs need to now come to a conclusion on whether this is something they want to fund.

“The SFA and SPFL have already started the ball rolling on looking at how much this will all cost but we now need to get the views of owners, chairmen and chief executives.”

Speaking after he left the meeting in Perth, Maxwell was quoted by the Daily Record as saying: “There’s a real appetite to fully investigate VAR, the managers see the benefits of it.

“Scottish football can afford it and ultimately it will come down to a club decision.”

A SPFL spokesperson confirmed the league is considering how to progress with plans to introduce VAR, saying: “There are a number of factors to consider when assessing the suitability and affordability of IFAB-compliant VAR to Scottish football competitions, and we look forward to working with our member clubs and the Scottish FA to ensure that any decisions that we make in this area are for the good of the game.”

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson was one of the 10 Premiership bosses who attended the meeting at McDiarmid Park but he admits he is not expecting VAR’s introduction any time soon.

“Referees are all good lads, they all want the same help that we do and we all agree the way forward is that they need help, and that has to be through modernising the game through VAR and potentially full-time referees.

“I don’t think it is a short-term thing, if I’m being honest. It costs money and where the money comes from, that is for other people to decide.

“There needs to be a way found to do it.

“Where it comes from needs to be found or Scottish football as a whole will get left behind.

“We are one of the only leagues in Europe not trialling it. Everyone is in agreement that we need to find a way to make it happen so we don’t fall behind.”

Several managers have taken aim at refereeing performances and the SFA’s disciplinary process this season, including Steven Gerrard, Brendan Rodgers, Steve Clarke and Craig Levein.

Hearts boss Levein was handed a one-match ban after branding referee Bobby Madden’s performance during their December defeat to Rangers “abysmal.”

But he was glad to have the opportunity to talk through recent issues with officials.

He said: “It was good to sit down and look people in the eye and have a chat. There’s a little bit more empathy when that happens.

“Generally when you come face to face with referees and other managers it’s match day, and everyone obviously has their own thoughts and has to protect their own domain and dynamic is different.

“It was good to talk to referees and chat generally about things that affect everyone in the room.

“But I think there has to be something that comes out of it. The VAR situation for me is the answer to this particular problem.”

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