AND so VAR is almost upon us. There have been calls for patience during the bedding-in period – something which, of course, is not exactly in abundance among Scottish football supporters who see conspiracy theories at every turn.

Certainly when James Sands remained on the pitch for a blatant red card offence on Jordy Hiwula during Rangers 4-0 win over Ross County in August it left those watching it scratching their heads in disbelief.

The introduction of VAR to the SPFL Premiership which will make its debut on Friday night for the game between Hibernian and St Johnstone at Easter Road is a welcome step towards reducing the number of times referees get decisions wrong – or so we are told.

When VAR is spoken of there is almost a sense that it is something intangible, an all-seeing eye that arbitrarily dispenses judgments from on high rather than, you know, an actual referee sitting behind a screen watching the replays.

Indeed, oftentimes it will be the very same person who is lambasted for missing a stick-on sending off or stonewall penalty on any given Saturday who might be sitting in the VAR booth in an office in an industrial estate off the M8 the following weekend.

In short, human error (and there is another debate that might suggest incompetence is a better description) will never be fully eradicated from the decision-making process.

There was near-universal approval from Premiership managers last week – and it will be useful to remember that positivity when they inevitably start complaining about VAR – although the odd one or two did hint at potential problems.

Callum Davidson hit the nail squarest on the head though. The St Johnstone manager joined in with the rest of his managerial colleagues by welcoming the new technology but he also pointed out the main problem with VAR: “I think there’s still contentious rules which makes it still difficult.”

Davidson has a sound point. The Laws of the Game defy logic at times as if devised by people who simply have no grasp of what it is to play football.

Handball remains a minefield as does certain overzealous tackling such as the stamp on a players ankle which in recent weeks, in leagues that do have the technology, has seen some players dismissed while others have escaped with a booking.

A penny for that former Rangers player’s thoughts

A few years ago I was at Ibrox to watch Rangers bounce back from two goals down to beat Sporting Braga in a Europa League group match. I was in the company of a former Rangers player who, while delighted at the result, was ultimately of the opinion that the side on the pitch lacked the characters necessary to win anything.

It was a particularly striking observation given what had just unfolded on the pitch.

A season later, of course, Rangers proved that theory incorrect but the more I think back to his words I’m struck by how close to the mark he was. This was a person who had been in that dressing room and saw first-hand some of the players who remain regulars in the side, players who he felt were not up to the standard required in terms of mentality.

Of particular interest would be his thoughts on what he made of James Tavernier’s comments in which he observed that: “I’d never once look at any team-mate and say they would chuck in the towel,” in the aftermath of the 7-1 defeat by Liverpool at Ibrox last Wednesday night.

Brown one of a handful still flying the flag for Scotland

Scottish women’s teams had their participation in the Champions League ended pretty early this season.

Glasgow City, who had been as far as the quarter-finals in 2014, could not make it out of a pre-qualifying tournament that the club hosted at Petershill Park while Rangers, who did manage the feat with victories over Ferencvaros and PAOK, promptly succumbed to Portuguese champions Benfica in the second round of qualifiers for the group stage.

While Scottish club participation might have ended there, it did not spell the end for a number of Scots playing in the tournament: there’s Erin Cuthbert at Chelsea, Caroline Weir at Real Madrid, Jen Beattie and Kim Little at Arsenal and then there is Fiona Brown at Rosengard.

Rosengard aside, the aforementioned clubs are all affiliated to heavyweight European outfits, but don’t be fooled by a name. Rosengard were formed by the board of Malmo in 1970 and are the most successful women’s side in Sweden and Brown is a key member of the side.

Standing in their way of a place in the knockout stage are holders Barcelona, Rangers’ conquerors Benfica and Bayern Munich, whom the Swedes face in their Group D opener on Wednesday night.

Smith visa issue is a shambles for Warriors

Plus ca change Glasgow Warriors. The Scottish pro rugby side who seem to break out in an allergic rash every time they go away, play the second leg of their South African adventure on Saturday in what is likely to be another fraught encounter on foreign soil.

Emirates Lions aren’t quite as mighty as the Sharks side that sunk their teeth into the Warriors before gobbling them down in one go at the weekend but they will still fancy themselves for a win.

Perhaps it is a tad reductive to boil Glasgow’s efforts down to a heavy reverse scoreline against a virtual Springboks XV in tough conditions, especially when they remained competitive for 50-odd minutes, and actually took a 7-0 lead and further spurned an opportunity to edge in front when missing a conversion just after the interval following Thomas Gordon’s second try of the match.

Losing away to Sharks is hardly groundbreaking stuff for a Glasgow side that lurched from one disaster to another on their travels since January but questions should be asked of the administrative botch job that means they find themselves in South Africa without a head coach as a result of the visa problems which denied Franco Smith the chance to travel to his home country to lead the team.

What’s On TV

Scotland play their second Group B match of the T20 World Cup against Ireland in Hobart on Wednesday (Sky Sports Cricket, 5am) by which time they will already know what they need to do (their opening match was against West Indies in the early hours of this morning) if they are to have a chance of progressing to the Super12 stage of the tournament – with two teams qualifying for the second stage of the tournament out of the eight teams competing in the first round.

The experts say Scotland are undercooked for the tournament with just two matches under their belts by way of preparation – and those were two resounding defeats by New Zealand.

Nevertheless, the mood in the camp is one of optimism following an impressive showing at this stage of the previous edition of the tournament, held last year, during which they posted wins over Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Oman.


The number of victories Glasgow Warriors have managed in their last 11 away games