Aberdeen brand VAR as 'not suitable for purpose' after meeting with SFA

The Dons say a vital goal was ruled out after VAR officials "effectively guessed" on offside.

Aberdeen brand VAR as ‘not suitable for purpose’ after meeting with SFA SNS Group

Aberdeen believe the current version of VAR in Scottish football is unfit for purpose and have revealed that a vital goal was ruled out after technology failed and officials “effectively guessed” that a player was offside.

The Pittodrie club say a meeting with the Scottish FA has left them in a position where they can no longer support the use of the system, which they feel doesn’t work to the required standard and has a “negative impact” on supporters.

The club has raised the issue after a controversial decision made during their game against Livingston on Saturday.

Aberdeen striker Bojan Miovski thought he had won the match for the Dons when he scored with an acrobatic volley in the 92nd minute at the Tony Macaroni Arena. However, after a VAR review, the goal was disallowed for an offside in the build-up and the match finished 0-0.

The club believe the goal should have stood, and that they should have had three points instead of one from the fixture. They say that when club representative met with the Scottish FA to discuss the decision, they discovered both technical failures and what they believe were serious mistakes in the process and decision-making.

VAR ‘had to effectively guess’

Aberdeen were told that the Hawkeye system that provides the calibrated on-screen lines to measure offside had failed. In normal circumstances, that system and graphic would have measured Angus MacDonald’s position and reached a ‘factual’ determination about whether the Aberdeen player was onside or not.

Instead, the officials used a freeze-frame of the key moment and make their own determination. Aberdeen accept that this is within the rules and protocols.

However, the club say that the frame available from the one angle available did not provide a complete picture and that it was impossible to tell if a Livingston player was playing MacDonald onside or not. Aberdeen claim the SFA admitted there was “no conceivable way” that VAR could make a definite call from the image used.

The Dons say it was acknowledged by everyone at the meeting that the VARs has to “effectively guess” on a vital, game-changing decision and that in such a situation the match referee’s on-field decision should have stood, or that at least he should be asked to make the call himself using the same image.

The Scottish FA has since issued a statement saying that a retrospective check by technology providers Hawkeye concluded that the officials had reached the correct decision.

A spokesperson for the governing body said: “The Scottish FA has today received a report from Hawkeye on the incident that occurred at Livingston’s match against Aberdeen, which confirmed that the Broadcast 18-Yard Left Camera suffered a loss of calibration and ceased line tracking on the relevant video frame.

“During the review, Hawkeye were able to reprocess the data through their system and draw the calibrated offside lines from the disallowed goal, which showed Angus MacDonald to be in an offside position.

“The VAR made the decision using the technology that was available and this decision was validated by Hawkeye’s retrospective recalibration conducted as part of their review.”

‘Not suitable for purpose’

Aberdeen say that the incident has left them with the opinion that the current version of VAR being used in the Premiership and cup competitions is having a negative impact. They believe Saturday’s decision is an example that highlights the limitations of the technology, “inappropriate implementation” and inconsistencies.

The club say they will take “an active role” in discussions with the relevant authorities to deliver improvement but right now they “do not believe VARs presence is enhancing the game in this country”.

The full statement read:

“Aberdeen FC feel compelled to address supporters following Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Livingston in West Lothian, when Bojan Miovski’s late goal was disallowed following an intervention from the Video Assistant Referee.

“AFC have deliberately retained a relative public silence throughout VAR’s lifespan in Scotland, despite some challenging situations both last season and this. We have instead chosen, for the most part, to air grievances around specific decisions, or make any suggested improvements, privately.

“However, that position is no longer tenable following a meeting earlier this week with the Scottish FA, where the club was provided an opportunity to see and hear the transcripts relating to Saturday’s disallowed goal in the Scottish Premiership match versus Livingston.

“The outcome of which was:

  • The Hawkeye system failed in the lead up to Bojan Miovski’s 92nd minute goal at the Tony Macaroni Arena, so the Video Assistant Referees (VARs) were unable to rely on any reliable calibrated lines to determine, with the normal degree of certainty, whether Angus MacDonald was offside or otherwise. The Scottish FA have confirmed to us that they have already launched an investigation into why this failure happened and their officials put into a difficult position.
  • The VARs then used a freeze frame to determine whether they thought Angus MacDonald was in an offside position when the free kick was taken by Leighton Clarkson. The ability for the VARs to do this is contained within the VAR protocols.
  • The Scottish FA accepted there is no conceivable way the VAR could tell definitively the deepest position of Livingston midfielder Daniel McKay’s body, because from the only angle available – the 18-yard box camera on the Main Stand side – the lower half of McKay’s body is completely obscured from view, blocked by other players. Even if his full body was visible, it’s impossible to determine who was closest to the goal line with no on-pitch ‘markers’.
  • Therefore, it was acknowledged by all in attendance at the meeting that the VARs had to effectively guess on what that position might have been based on the limited information available to them, and that was the basis on which to overrule the on-field call of the assistant referee, who did not raise his flag. It is our strong belief that in such an instance, and for the integrity of the game, the match officials should stick with their original on-field decision without the strength of evidence to overturn that and essentially re-referee the passage of play.
  • This course of action was chosen ahead of asking the referee, himself, to look at the freeze frame and make a determination, which is permitted under the protocols when it’s a matter of opinion rather than factual, or more appropriately, in absence of a definitive outcome from the camera, sticking with the on-field decision, and giving the benefit of the doubt.

“What this situation demonstrates, in our opinion, is that the version of VAR that Scottish football has, or more accurately, can afford, is not suitable for the purpose in which it is intended. It perfectly highlights the limitations in the technology, the inappropriate implementation, the consistency of decision-making, and the negative impact on the overall experience for the match-going supporter.

“This is, of course, not an issue that we believe is in any way exclusive to Aberdeen FC. We are not being partisan because we believe a decision, or at least a process, has not been at all effective at the weekend. We acknowledge there have been occasions where we ourselves have been fortunate to have benefitted from some of the observations and limitations raised.

“The Scottish FA, with the help of the SPFL (via the Competitions Working Group), have an on-going review of the use of Video Assistant Referees within Scottish football. Aberdeen FC is committed to playing an active role in those discussions and will work with all stakeholders to try and improve the output because, at the moment, we do not believe VARs presence is enhancing the game in this country.”

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