The next time Brendan Rodgers or anyone else at this club is asked about VAR it is imperative that he makes sure to correct the record. Yesterday, The Daily Record devoted an entire article to how “VAR” was being questioned over the Ibrox penalty incident against Motherwell as if it was some electronic eye and didn’t have actual officials making the decisions.
Ben Banks, one of their pitiful “writers” said the following;
“VAR has been hit with an awkward question as Motherwell boss Stuart Kettlewell stews over a potential missed spot-kick chance for his men against (the club from Ibrox) … but debate has swirled post-match on whether or not Mika Biereth was pulled down in the box by Cyriel Dessers as the Arsenal loanee looked to pounce on a home set-piece.
Neither on-field referee David Dickinson or VAR deemed it a penalty.”
Let’s get a couple of things straight; first, there’s no more “debate” here than there is on whether the Earth is round. That’s a penalty. All day. Every day. By any definition.
Even the SFA “Ibrox Rules” version says that’s a penalty.
That they would have gotten it cannot be in the least doubt. So, whatever “debate” Banks thinks is going on has to be confined to the Sevco Wing at the psych ward at Hidden Halls.
Everywhere else, they know what it was.
But it’s this reference to “VAR” as though we had sophisticated AI watching over our refs that truly pisses me off, and it should piss everyone off and whoever next has to talk on this from Celtic should make it clear that such language only serves to cloud a straightforward issue.
This was not some emotionless machine that simply couldn’t do the computations … this was a person; this was just another SFA good old boy who knows how things work around here.
This was a person, with the benefit of instant replay and an entire history of precedents to fall back on. This was an SFA employee well aware of the lengthy number of games since the Ibrox club last conceded a spot-kick, and doesn’t want to be the person who breaks that run, no matter how justified, no matter how in keeping with the regulations.
VAR for that game was under the control of a guy called Greg Aitken, and the VAR assistant was a guy called Graeme Stewart. They decided that the Ibrox club would not be penalised, not some computer program and they are where the criticism should be pointed.
I’ve heard VAR referred to this way before, as if it was the technology itself to blame and not the way it’s being used. That analogy I like to use about putting a cop on a guy’s tail for 500 miles is appropriate; think of VAR itself as the cop car, or maybe the speed gun. Are we really going to pretend this is the fault of a little black box and not the guys in the booth?
Language is important. The way it is used is important.
The whole discussion about VAR is tailored so we don’t think about it as something outside our authority, but of course it is, because “VAR error” is “human error” … or “VAR honest mistakes” to give this phenomenon its full name.
And the machines will be run by Willie Collum for the match at Celtic Park at the end of the week, “assisting” Nick Walsh, and that troubles me and it should trouble everyone at our club and none of them should be letting it be forgotten or glossed over.
If VAR is weaponised against us in that match, remember the man at the controls.