THE use of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) may eventually prove to be the panacea for all of football’s officiating ills but it isn’t going to be the saviour of Scottish football any time soon. In the midst of what feels like a never-ending sequence of contentious, and at times baffling, refereeing decisions, VAR has again been forwarded as the best method available to give our beleaguered match officials a helping hand.

That isn’t going to happen, though, any time soon. In a refreshingly candid statement, Ian Maxwell, the Scottish FA’s chief executive, admitted yesterday that both they and the SPFL would need to have a proper look at the technology, the ease with which it could be implemented and, most importantly, the cost of doing so before it could be rolled out throughout Scottish football.

It won’t be happening this season, though and, by the sounds of things, it won’t be in place next year either. BT Sports have offered to trial the technology but there was more likelihood of Craig Levein and Bobby Madden going door to door singing Christmas carols together than there was of the governing bodies rushing to introduce it in response to the current brouhaha about refereeing mistakes.

The next meeting to discuss VAR isn’t planned until late January, by which time the Scottish football caravan will probably have rolled on to the next hot topic of discussion in any case.

Like most things it will come down to money. If VAR is to be introduced properly, then the technology would need to be available for every Premiership match, not just those games that are broadcast live. A piecemeal approach would just add additional layers of controversy on to an already contentious subject, and it would not be long before an incorrect penalty decision overturned in one match using VAR is allowed to stand in one game that doesn’t have it. And that wouldn’t move the Scottish game forward one bit.

VAR, then, has to be all-in or not at all. And it won’t come cheap. It is not a coincidence that those tournaments and leagues that have deployed it – or are about to do so – can be considered among the richest in the world. Anyone looking accusingly at the SPFL or the SFA wondering when they may do the same ought to redirect their gaze. This will be the clubs’ call and given the expense of both implementing the technology and the extra human resources required to oversee it all then it is hard to see a huge rush towards this. Even with a new lucrative TV deal with Sky due to kick in, Scottish football is not awash with money.

The only realistic solution, then, is to improve on what is already there. Hanging referees out to dry may prove a temporary cathartic experience for managers but for as long as that is a one-way method of communication then it will make little difference going forward.

Maxwell, to his credit, did not try to blame managers for having a pop but felt the best solution in the long term would be to encourage regular dialogue and better engagement between all parties. You don’t have to be inside the circle to realise there is an enduring degree of animosity and hostility between managers and match officials that does not help engender positive working relations.

Greater transparency and accountability would help, too. If a post-match audience with the media is never likely to get the green light, then referees should at least be given a platform to explain their decisions via the SFA’s website or other digital forums.

If a large part of the growing frustration stems from managers, players, pundits and fans having to second guess why a referee has awarded a penalty or disallowed a “goal”, then offering an explanation ought to at least partially dilute that anger. People may still not agree with a decision but at least they can gain an understanding of why a referee has arrived at it.

If managers and players are accountable for their actions, then match officials should be too, especially given many of them are better paid than some players.

Those who find themselves making regular, high-profile mistakes should be stood down for a match or two. There would be little merit in John Fleming, the SFA’s head of refereeing, throwing his charges under a bus but a tacit acknowledgement that standards have dropped beyond what ought to be considered acceptable would serve to give supporters faith that there is no complacency within the organisation. If players can be dropped for poor performances, then referees should face similar consequences.

Our match officials are under the microscope like never before, something the Scottish FA’s chief executive has been honest enough to acknowledge. Addressing that issue should be the priority before we can start to look at technological alternatives.

TRUE greatness doesn’t need to announce itself, which makes the recent comments attributed to Pele a disappointing read. The Brazilian dismissed Lionel Messi as a player who “only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well” while talking up his own multi-faceted prowess back in the day.

The debate on who is or was the best ever will continue to rage, but in tallying up each candidate’s attributes, it might be prudent to take humility into account, too.