Matt O’Riley shares his VAR Frustrations

Since Ange Postecoglou arrived at Celtic the playing style of the football has certainly caught the imagination. The speed of Celtic’s rotational play is a joy to behold, and the breathless approach to the beautiful game almost always find a way to break down even the most stubborn of low blocks.

On occasions Celtic will score the early goal, relax as a result and the goals will flow. On other occasions the team’s patience and belief in their football gaining results eventually, means we will wear teams down later as their minds and bodies tire, ensuring space opens up and Celtic’s superior fitness and craft can take advantage.

 Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Yet one of the big issues facing Celtic at the moment is the amount of time taken to check VAR decisions. And the wait, sometimes as long as five minutes plus, allows the opposition to regroup and gain their composure.

And it’s something Matt O’Riley has rightly taken issue with, as reported in Daily Record.

“It is frustrating. It takes a really long time. I don’t know what the average time is but it must be over two or three minutes each time.

Celtic v St Mirren – Matt O’Riley celebrates scoring our fourth goal of the game during the Scottish Cup fifth round match at Celtic Park, Saturday February 11, 2023.Photo Steve Welsh

“For us it’s not ideal, especially the way we play and the momentum we have when we’re constantly attacking teams, it gives them a breather as well. The way we’re playing, we’re trying to tire teams out, so it’s a bit frustrating in that sense but at the same time everyone has to deal with it.”

O’Riley is spot on with this one. There is an argument of course to state the officials are still learning the ropes and adapting to the changes in how they are expected to officiate as a result. Yet there seems to have been little improvement so far when it comes to the length of time it takes to assess an on-field incident.

And the frustration is there to see on the faces of the Celtic players and indeed the stress appears evident when it comes to the match officials too, as the camera – and they eyes of the watching public – remain focused on the man in black, despite it being his portacabin cohort who thinks there is enough time to finish his cuppa before reviewing the footage.

Celtic v St Mirren – Matt O’ Riley celebrates scoring our fourth goal of the game during the Scottish Cup fifth round match at Celtic Park, Saturday February 11, 2023. Photo Steve Welsh

Perhaps this wouldn’t be such an issue if the referees made it clear that ALL the time it took to clarify on-field decisions was added on at the end of the game – as we saw to good effect with the World Cup in Qatar – but that simply isn’t happening, and it has an effect on Celtic’s approach to football being undermined by the match officials inability to reach their conclusions in a timely manner.

Of course, the longer this goes on, then questions are raised. Not only to the time taken to reach the decisions but also whether it suits certain officials themselves to grab a breather. After all part-time officials with other jobs as a priority perhaps lack the time to address their fitness levels, and therefore to keep up with Celtic’s ‘we never stop’ mantra becomes something of a chore – as such a chance to catch a breath may well suit.

However, this issue impacts on Celtic more than most doesn’t it? Even our nearest Premiership rivals are not a particularly past-paced side and the rest of Scottish football, bar the odd exception – Hibs for instance – appear still to prefer not to lose a game rather than push to win it. As such built in breaks in play allows the sands of time to run out all the quicker, meaning of there is less time in which to simply avoid defeat.

Celtic v St Mirren –  Matt O Riley left scores his sides fourth goal of the game during the Scottish Cup fifth round match at Celtic Park, Saturday February 11, 2023. Photo Steve Welsh

With many of the often-ridiculed changes to the interpretation of the laws of the game designed to ensure attacking play is rewarded in other competitions, in Scotland, those who wish to take advantage of such changes – and entertain their paying public – are instead penalised. It’s enough to make you think there’s a conspiracy at play, but we’re not allowed to say that, are we?

And if – as I did – you believed in time things would settle down and VAR would soon reach decisions all the quicker, you only have to look to the time-wasting tactics Celtic face – often when even two or three goals to the good – to see perhaps the time taken to reach VAR decisions is not something the match officials are concerned about, instead you could say they too are happy to have the opportunity to take a break, and if that slows Celtic down, then all the better.

Niall J

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About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

1 Comment

  1. It is CHEATING – no more, no less.
    They know fine what they are doing.
    On average, each game in this country lasts around 50 to 55 minutes, with all the wastage of time.
    It is no wonder we have one of the least entertaining leagues in the world.
    Good, entertaining football is not encouraged and the standard of referees is generally dismal, with the odd exception from time to time.