Rangers ask SFA for audio from VAR penalty call in defeat to Celtic

The Ibrox club want an explanation and clear understanding of the decision-making process.

Rangers have contacted the Scottish FA to ask for the audio recording of a decision not to award the team a penalty in their 2-1 defeat to Celtic.

The Ibrox side are aggrieved that they weren’t awarded a spot kick in the first half of the match at Celtic Park, when Alistair Johnston appeared to handle the ball while challenging Abdallah Sima.

Referee Nick Walsh didn’t award a penalty at the time and wasn’t called to review the incident by VAR official Willie Collum.

In the second half, broadcasters were told that Sima had been offside before the handball incident, meaning no penalty could be given. But that explanation has left Rangers perplexed, with manager Philippe Clement asking why the referee didn’t make any physical signal for offside if that had been the decision at the time.

It’s now understood that Collum didn’t feel that the call was a “clear and obvious” error that would have prompted a review but that Sima would have been found to be offside before the penalty issue was looked at.

The club have now asked the governing body to release the audio so they can have clarity over what Clement said was an incident that could have changed the game.

A Rangers spokesperson said: “Rangers have asked the Scottish FA to make the VAR audio available to the club to understand why no penalty was awarded despite a clear handball by Celtic’s Alastair Johnston.

“The club is keen to understand the process that led to that decision being made as it was not made public at the time, nor communicated to our team.

“We also understand Sky, as the league’s official broadcaster, is deeply unhappy and confused with the situation. Their panel spent half-time in agreement Rangers should have been awarded a penalty, unaware of any offside check. Again, this only surfaced in the second half.

“Rangers remains advocates of VAR, but there must be significantly more transparency for it to be successful in Scotland.”

Audio recordings are not generally released as a matter of course in world football, though exceptions have been made. Earlier this year, the FA in England released details of a mix-up that led to a Liverpool goal being wrongly disallowed against Spurs.

In October, the Scottish FA itself wrote to UEFA’s head of referees to ask for an explanation of why Scott McTominay’s goal against Spain was disallowed in a Euro 2024 qualifier but the governing body stopped short of asking for the VAR audio to be released. UEFA declined to discuss the matter, saying that they were happy that the correct decision had ultimately been reached.

Speaking after Saturday’s game, Rangers boss Clement outlined his frustration with the call.

“My biggest frustration is that when there’s a clear hand ball, why isn’t a penalty given?” the Rangers manager asked. “Because that’s a clear thing. I’m curious about that.

“The decision about the penalty needs to be more clear because that’s a clear handball.

“First, there was no communication towards me. Second, if that was the communication, I’m not a referee but I think there’s a clear [physical] signal for VAR and offside that everyone knows what happened.

“There was no communication about that, in that moment. I don’t believe that. Otherwise, the signal of the referee is not correct.

“There is a mistake. It’s clear for everybody.

“It is what it is, and I also make mistakes, but it’s an expensive one today.”

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