Raith Rovers boss Ian Murray assesses considerable impact of VAR on Scottish football

Ian Murray will have to deal directly with VAR's 'pros and cons' next season if his Raith team is promoted to the Scottish Premiership (Pic Fife Photo Agency)Ian Murray will have to deal directly with VAR's 'pros and cons' next season if his Raith team is promoted to the Scottish Premiership (Pic Fife Photo Agency)
Ian Murray will have to deal directly with VAR's 'pros and cons' next season if his Raith team is promoted to the Scottish Premiership (Pic Fife Photo Agency)
With Ian Murray’s Raith Rovers side involved in a straight shootout with Dundee United for this season’s Scottish Championship crown and also having the ‘fall back’ of gaining promotion via the play-offs, there is a very real possibility that – for the first time – all Raith’s league games could be under the microscope of video assistant referee (VAR) in the Scottish Premiership next season.

And Stark’s Park manager Murray – whose side are just one point behind leaders United with a game in hand ahead of this Saturday's crunch encounter between the rivals at Tannadice – told the Fife Free Press that he is not a huge supporter of VAR in its current format.

The Kirkcaldy boss said: "I've been involved in one VAR game I think and that was at Ibrox last season (Raith’s 3-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat to Rangers in March 2023),” he said. "I've been to a few games now where there's been VAR used and I'm not a massive fan of it.

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"I understand that it does cut out mistakes most of the time but some of the decisions that are being given with VAR are just incredibly bad.

"We saw an example when the ball hit a Motherwell player's hand and a goal was disallowed in their recent game against Aberdeen.

"We also saw a ridiculous penalty in the Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle. Just silly things like that where they're just not decisions that need to be made because there's nothing in them.

"But then there's other ones that are really, really good because referees do miss things.

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"I know the referees are getting a lot of stick at the moment. It's a wee bit harsh and it is a very, very difficult job.

"But certainly as it is for us (in the Scottish Championship), we will keep it as it is, we're pretty happy without it.

"Obviously if we step up to the Premier League then that changes, but VAR is not really much fun for the players, the staff and the supporters.

"It is frustrating but every club is going to have moments in the season where it goes against them.

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"But I don't see any change because we went to games before and yes, the referee would make a poor decision, you'd look back at it and you'd disagree with it. But it's still happening so it's not really solving too much at the moment.

"Obviously there have been teething problems with VAR.

“I think it's more about the time, how long the checks are taking, play is going on and then it's getting pulled back and all this sort of stuff.

"It's just really strange, a weird experience for everybody because it kind of kills the atmosphere while the players are all standing about, supporters are scratching their heads.

"I was very much the same at Easter Road for the Edinburgh derby earlier in the season. It was two or three minutes before the incident was pulled back and not one person in that stadium - Hibs or Hearts - appealed for a penalty, that's for sure.

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"You get VAR for really big, obvious decisions, but when you are taking four or five minutes to make that decision, it can't be clear and obvious.”

After their trip to Tannadice this weekend, Murray’s team will next face a hectic run of three home league fixtures within a week, Ayr United on Saturday, April 6, Airdrieonians on Tuesday, April 9 and Partick Thistle on Saturday, April 13.

“All the games left are very crucial and we will have three in a row at home,” he added.

"We had a wee spell earlier in the season where I think we had three or four away games on the trot, just with cup games and league games.

"So we're kind of reversing it round a wee bit.

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"I'm looking forward to it. What will be will be, type thing. We're well in the hunt.

"Those three games in seven days will be very, very hard for the players but it's also a really, really good opportunity as well.

"There are seven to go but before you know it we're going to be down to the last couple.”

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