Date: 20th September 2019 at 11:50am
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The flagship tournament gets it all, as usual.

The big money, the big TV contracts, the big sponsorship deals.

The premium slots – Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

The secondary tournament gets the casts offs and the dirty end of the stick.

It has ever been thus. The League Cup Final here in Scotland is played in December, a ridiculous state of affairs but one that reflects its status after all. But if we brought in a different set of rules for that tournament and how it’s officiated everyone would see it as a disgrace.

VAR is a proven technology.

Not only is it in use for the top tier tournament at UEFA, but it’s being used in national leagues all around the world.

So the decision that UEFA took not to introduce it to the Europa League in time for this campaign – it will make its debut in tw – seems daft.

Neil Lennon was fuming about it last night and I completely understand why.

“I was aware there was no VAR before the game,” he said. “We are playing under the UEFA banner. I’m surprised we don’t have it in this competition. If we had had it, then it would have been clearly another penalty. I’m not happy about the sending off and we should have had a clear penalty for the foul on Ryan Christie.”

Let’s not pretend that VAR is a stand-in for refs.

The ref last night, and to a lesser extent his linesman, blew it big time with some of their decisions. We should have had a second penalty. The red card should have been looked at again and the goalkeeper booked for a diabolical act of theatre which amounts to cheating.

VAR cannot save incompetent referees.

But it can give them a second chance to get the big decisions right, and I cannot see a single viable reason why it is not being used in this competition. Is it to save money? Surely it’s not that expensive, not what national leagues are using it, and not when it’s going to be introduced in next year’s tournament.

Right not all it’s doing is to highlight – again – the second-rate nature of the Europa League, which is a real shame because last night Celtic turned in a first rate performance.

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