Independent panel judges VAR to be incorrect on 13 'key incidents'

Incidents reviewed included a 'handball' decision in the Celtic v Rangers derby.

The Scottish FA has published the latest findings of the VAR Independent Review Panel (IRP) with the review body finding 13 key incidents from Premiership games that it deemed to be incorrect.

The panel is drawn from former top level managers, player and coaches, and is guided by experts on the Laws of the Game.

Introduced at the start of the season, it is in place to provide an independent view on referees and the use of Video Assistant Referees.

Scottish football is half-way through its first full season of using the VAR system but the new figures show an increase in decisions where the panel believed officials got it wrong.

Statistics released by the Scottish FA showed that had been 378 VAR reviews in the second quarter of the season. The majority are silent checks that involve no intervention, while some are ‘factual’ decisions or overturns such as offside where judgement is not an issue.

Of the remaining incidents reviewed by the IRP, 13 were deemed to be incorrect, up from three incorrect decisions in the first quarter of the season.

The incidents featured a number of Premiership clubs, with penalties, red cards and a disallowed goal all examined.

The most high-profile related to the Celtic v Rangers game on December 30 and the alleged ‘handball’ that sparked anger from the Ibrox club.

The fallout stemmed from an incident in the game at Celtic Park, which Rangers lost 2-1, when Celtic defender Alistair Johnston appeared to handle the ball in the box under pressure from Abdallah Sima.

No penalty was awarded and referee Nick Walsh was not called over to the monitor by VAR official Willie Collum to review the incident.

While an offside decision earlier in the attacking move meant no penalty would have been awarded in any case, the IRP examined the incident and believe Collum should have recommended an on-field review for a potential penalty. That review would then have triggered an offside check and a free kick given to Celtic.

Rangers were unhappy with the decision at the time and, after being permitted to hear the VAR audio, they complained about the “haste” in which it was made and had asked that Collum not officiate any of their matches. The Scottish FA urged them to show “greater responsibility” and Collum has since refereed a Rangers match.

Among the other incidents in the review was a disallowed goal scored by Graham Carey for St Johnstone against Aberdeen that the panel felt should have stood despite a VAR intervention to highlight a foul in the penalty area.

The panel also looked at a number of penalty calls and was of the opinion that Hearts should have been awarded two penalties, in games against Motherwell and Ross County. The club should also have seen an incident involving Beni Baningime against Aberdeen reviewed pitchside, with the IRB of the opinion a red card should have been shown.

A penalty awarded to Rangers away at Livingston in November after an apparent foul on Ross McCausland should not have been awarded, the IRB believed, and they also felt the Ibrox side should have not conceded a spot-kick awarded against them for a handball by John Souttar in the game against Kilmarnock on January 2.

An on-field decision not to award Rangers a penalty after a challenge on Abdallah Sima against Dundee should have stood, they said, while Zach Robinson’s goal for Dundee against Livingston last month should have been ruled out for an earlier foul by Michael Mellon.

The review also found that VAR should have recommended an on-field review for a potential red card for Kilmarnock’s Will Dennis against Hearts in December and that the keeper should have been sent off for an early challenge, while the Rugby Park club should also have seen a red card for Marley Watkins against Aberdeen the following week.

And an incident involving Rangers Jose Cifuentes was also highlighted. The midfielder was shown a yellow card for a challenge against Dundee in December which was upgraded to a red card after a pitchside review. Rangers then submitted an appeal to an independent tribunal but lost, with Cifuentes suspended and Rangers paying a £500 fee.

The IRB felt VAR shouldn’t have been involved at all and that the initial yellow card was sufficient punishment.

Of the 13 incidents where the IRB thought the wrong decision had been reached, the panel felt that on four occasions the original on-field decision should have stood and that VAR intervention led to the correct decision being overturned.

The Scottish FA figures showed that there was an average of 0.4 on-field VAR reviews per match, with the number of factual overturns this season now standing at 24.

The governing body’s Referee Operations department considers 89.3% of on-field decisions have been reached correctly, increased to 97.6% when including VAR interventions.

The Scottish FA shared these statistics to the 12 Premiership clubs on Thursday morning as part of an update on the performance of VAR in Scotland.

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