Let’s go over a couple of things before anything else.
First, and most notably, VAR’s implementation has not given Celtic a single major call. Every massive decision it has been responsible for has gone against us.
In one high profile incident, the handball at Tynecastle, the technology appears not to have been used at all, although it was implemented specifically to be utilised in exactly those circumstances, and in the most recent instance we have a world first; VAR cameras missing a crucial incident because they weren’t watching the game.
Secondly – and this is worth pointing out – it has taken less than a month for serious, serious questions to be raised in relation to the system, and not about its efficacy but about its operators. Which, to my mind, is pretty incredible when you think about it.
Last night, on Radio Clyde, Mark Wilson got into a debate with the anchor when Gordon Duncan offered up the possibility that there had been a “a mechanical flaw” on Wednesday night. Wilson’s response was to actually laugh.
“That would be unlucky,” he said, with scorn. “Three weeks in and there’s a mechanical flaw. It has never been known throughout the world but here in Scotland.”
The incredulity in his voice has only been matched by that which we all feel this evening, reading again and again the SFA’s incredible statement on this.
But there is a third thing to consider, and it might prove to be the most important of the three. The SFA has gotten itself into a proper state over this latest decision, and in doing so it has expended all the goodwill that it had available to it … and for what? We have won these games, in spite of the controversy that they have generated.
Celtic has not been set back one inch. We’ve got a full-house on the flop and the opposition has already used up the bulk of its chips. We can now force them to go all-in or fold the hand; either way we’ve got them right where we want them.
In Celtic’s comments to a national newspaper last night the club put credibility at the heart of their inquiry into Wednesday’s events. That was clever stuff.
This system depends on the support of the clubs and the fans. Controversies like these, which were precisely what it was designed to avoid, weaken that credibility significantly. In the case of the Jota decision, the SFA’s contention that the camera was looking elsewhere is so rancid that it brings the whole system into disrepute.
Even if that explanation is not cover for something darker, there are now big, big clouds hovering over VAR and those whose job it is to implement it.
Whether by accident or design, it has taken less than a month for the spotlight to face those who we have always wanted it trained on.
The scrutiny these guys are under now is immense, and they have made things worse for themselves – by a considerable degree – with the Jota “explanation.” As my old man said to me, this is an excuse they can only offer once. They can never pull this stroke again.
The last thing they could afford to do was have too many of these major decisions up for debate early on, and they certainly could not afford to have so many of them go against our club without it looking and smelling rotten. Yet this is what they’ve done.
We’re not even a month in and the whole country is talking about it. The technology that was not supposed to come in until after the World Cup will dominate the conversation here in Scotland all the way through that tournament and for the wrong reasons.
But the debate is where Celtic wants it, and it’s being had now on Celtic’s terms. This is the second major decision we have queried and the SFA’s explanation is so ridiculous that the stink is impossible to ignore. They played their cards too early, and it did us no damage whatsoever; indeed, since VAR was implemented we’ve increased our league lead.
We have put the pressure on and now we have to keep it on. Our only goal is to get honesty and fair treatment from officials, and I think Celtic has long suspected that VAR was, in part, the way to get it.
We would have anticipated scandals like this … indeed, we would been hoping for them.
Anything to put the spotlight on officials and their decision making.
Their mistake was to believe that they could carry on as before.
They have, whether they know it or not, played right into our hands.