Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster thinks video assistant referee (VAR) technology could damage the national game’s “brand”.
VAR now allows refereeing decisions to be reviewed in England and many of Europe’s other leagues, with repeated calls – including from Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes – for it to be implemented in the Premiership.
However, there have been high-profile mistakes made by the officials operating the system in other countries, as well as complaints over the effect on the in-stadium experience for fans.
Doncaster, in a wide-ranging interview for the Price Of Football podcast, admitted these concerns and fears over the financial implications.
He said: “There’s a number of reasons (for not having it in Scotland yet).
“It’s new technology and you’ve got to be very careful when implementing something new that you don’t damage something very precious. To me, particularly in Scotland, our brand is about in-stadium passion, drama and excitement.
“If you end up in a situation where people don’t feel they can celebrate a goal properly in case it’s chalked off, you damage what Scottish football’s all about.
“I’m concerned about VAR. If it can’t be made to work with all of the millions in the big five leagues, then you should be very careful before there’s implementation in Scotland.
“The cost is likely to be seven figures at a time when the game is very stretched financially.
“VAR will give you more correct decisions, but my concern is the cost of those greater amount of correct decisions when you can never get to perfection.”
Before the coronavirus crisis put the game on hold, it had been expected the Scottish FA would ask member clubs to vote on introducing VAR as early as next month.
The seven-figure sum Doncaster mentioned is reported to be £1 million a year, after SFA counterpart Ian Maxwell commissioned a study into the cost and implementation of the technology.
Earlier in the season, Rangers called for VAR to be brought in after their 2-1 win over Celtic, while Dons boss McInnes spoke out after Sam Cosgrove was controversially dismissed for a challenge on the Hoops’ Kristoffer Ajer in a league game at Parkhead.
Meanwhile, Doncaster – who has been SPFL chief executive since 2013 and has overseen the introduction of the pyramid system – also discussed the potential for cross-border leagues, Brexit’s impact on transfers, club finances and ownership models.
On nations combining their divisions, Doncaster said he thinks Uefa are more open than ever before to the idea as a way of combating the “polarisation of money” which has created a huge chasm between England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1 and all of Europe’s national leagues.
He said: “The haves – the big five leagues – have accelerated away from the rest and the second-tier leagues have been left behind.
“For Uefa to try to bridge that gap by taking money away from the big five is perhaps unrealistic, as much as some people would like them to do that.
“But I do think Uefa would welcome the idea of leagues banding together to create bigger economic units, perhaps to try to bridge the gap and stop the polarisation.
“We have seen speculation about the Belgian and Dutch leagues and they are understood to be carrying out a piece of work to explore whether a merged league across those two countries would work.
“You could certainly see something across Scandinavia working well, based on the geography. Perhaps Portugal and Spain.
“Our issue is, our nearest neighbour, the one we share a common language with, is economically so far away from us.
“That is not to say it won’t ever happen.”