TONY Watt was adamant Scottish football was still better off without VAR (Video Assistant Referee) last month despite Motherwell being knocked out of the Scottish Cup after Jackson Irvine of Hibernian had scored an offside goal in the quarter-final at Easter Road.

“That’s life,” said Watt with a wry smile and a shrug of his shoulders after Graham Alexander’s side had been edged out in a penalty shoot-out. “What can we do? If it’s offside, it’s offside. You win some, you lose some. It’s just what happens. That’s football. You don’t want VAR do you?”

It was a mature response to a bitter disappointment – the striker and his Fir Park team mates had fought back from being 2-0 down to level and taken the last eight match to extra-time and then spot kicks - and a definite injustice.

The former Airdrie, Celtic and Hearts forward’s viewpoint is shared by many players, coaches, officials and fans in this country. Those who have witnessed how VAR has adversely impacted on the game in England are vehemently opposed to its introduction here.

Atmospheres have, pre-coronavirus when grounds were full at least, often been killed by the innovation. There have been interminable delays as officials have deliberated over rulings. The excitement has been sucked out of many matches as dramatic goals have been chalked off minutes later. There has been controversy and confusion over the consistency of the decisions.

There was another almighty stooshie surrounding the technology at the weekend when Manchester City played Chelsea in a Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening.

City winger Raheem Sterling was adamant he was fouled in the Chelsea area by centre half Kurt Zouma with three minutes of regulation time remaining. Television replays clearly showed contact had been made three times. But referee Anthony Taylor took no action after consulting with his colleagues.

“I couldn't get a shot off because he's put his knee on the back of my hamstring," Sterling told Sky Sports later. "I don't know how it's not a penalty, I don't know how it's not been reviewed properly. The ref said it had been reviewed. I thought the VAR was here to help.”

Marcus Alonso netted in added on time to give the visitors a 2-1 triumph that increased their chances of finishing in the top four as their hosts’ title celebrations were delayed.

Yet, Sterling was only on the park in the first place because VAR had ruled that his foul on Timo Werner wasn’t worthy of a red card. His studs had been up and he didn’t look completely in control. He was fortunate. It is an almighty mess and no mistake.

But the Scottish Cup semi-finals between Hibs and Dundee United on Saturday and St Mirren and St Johnstone yesterday would have both benefitted greatly from the use of VAR.

Jack Ross’s men were worthy winners at the end of their encounter with Micky Mellon’s charges. But for the second round in a row they scored an offside goal which should have been disallowed.

Christian Doidge was a yard beyond the last United defender when Martin Boyle played him through. A quick review of the incident would quickly have shown that beyond any doubt and match official Bobby Madden could have chalked the strike off immediately.

Then in the second semi-final of the weekend yesterday Willie Collum ignored a blatant foul by St Johnstone defender Jamie McCart on St Mirren forward Kristian Dennis in the first-half and a potential hand ball immediately afterwards. Jim Goodwin’s men ended up losing 2-1.

It is to be hoped there are no similar incidents in the final on Saturday week. They will mar what has been an excellent competition.  

UEFA use VAR in the latter rounds of both the Champions League and the Europa League. But it is only deployed in four obvious match-changing situations when there is evidence of a clear and obvious mistake - goals, incidents in the penalty area, red cards and mistaken identity.

It is a less pedantic system which causes far less angst among protagonists and onlookers. Scottish clubs have certainly had few complaints in the past when it has been called upon in Europe.

Copenhagen were awarded a spot kick after Ryan Christie of Celtic handled at a corner last season and Rangers centre half George Edmundson also gifted Bayer Leverkusen a penalty. There were no arguments on either occasion.

VAR can, when used sensibly, aid match officials, improve the quality of decision making and even enhance a game as a spectacle. It is needed in the modern game, when every flashpoint and flare-up is filmed from numerous different angles and pored over endlessly by online agitators, despite what its detractors claim.   

The Video Assistant Referee is far from perfect. But it is a work in progress and should not be dismissed while it is being perfected. The International Football Association Board have asked officials not to be “too forensic” after listening to complaints from across the globe in the past few seasons. Hopefully their advice will be heeded.

Many feel that bringing VAR into Scottish football would be a waste of money which could be better spent elsewhere, not least at grassroots level. The game here is hardly awash with cash. But it will, at some stage in the not-too-distant future, get the go-ahead. Used correctly, it can benefit referees, improve games and protect the overall integrity of the sport.