Most Celtic fans I know are in favour of VAR and it is not difficult to see why.
Refereeing in Scotland is a disgrace, as we all saw again at the weekend.
Whilst it won’t stop every bad decision – and refs will still get to run their games in the way Madden did at the weekend. Whilst VAR should have caught the offside winner, the game would not have played out much differently.
Sutton thinks that a system is only as good as the people who run it, and that’s where the worry comes in. Incompetence, or bias, might still be an issue we have to deal with. Refs will look for the smallest justification they can find for certain decisions and will almost certainly ignore others … he is right about this and so are the critics.
But here’s the thing; it’s harder to do. It is harder to survive the kind of scrutiny that would come from denying Celtic a stonewall penalty or failing to send an Ibrox player off for a thuggish assault. And whilst VAR could see decisions given on the flimsiest pretext, everyone will be able to watch those decisions and for the first time genuine pressure can be applied.
And here’s the thing; Celtic will have to be willing to do that.
Celtic will need to be willing to challenge any decision which VAR interprets one way and which its “operators” interpret another. The evidence will be there to support any complaint we make and refs will have to account for how they were made.
A couple of challenges and people will get the message fast. Right now, refs can pretend not to have seen incidents, and interpret them based on a single moment lasting no more than a couple of seconds. But if VAR is available, their margin for error vanishes to next to nothing. Their ability to make excuses drops to almost zero.
This is why I support it and why I disagree with what Sutton is saying on general principle. But I understand exactly why he’s saying it … and Celtic will need to be watching, wary and ready to pounce the first time this technology fails to deliver real justice.
We are paying for it. We better be subjecting this system to the proper scrutiny.