Belfast Telegraph

We're counting the cost of not investing in video help for our refs

By Billy Weir

I was doing a wee bit of research (this magic doesn't just happen by chance, you know) this week into the costs of our old friend Video Assistant Refereeing, or VAR to his chums.

Last year, Scottish football chief Neil Doncaster reckoned it would cost £5,000 per game, equating to roughly £1m per season, to bring it into the Scottish Premiership.

That league, like the Danske Bank Premiership, has 12 teams, so we can compare like with like and that's how much it would cost here too.

There are other costs too, you need another qualified referee on the side of the pitch and another one in a TV room to judge on controversial decisions, but I am sure Rodney McAree would argue after Saturday's Irish Cup semi-final that it is a price worth paying.

When referee Tim Marshall awarded the Bannsiders a penalty against Crusaders when Sean Ward flattened Jamie Glackin, it looked like Coleraine's lifeline.

However, his assistant Richard Storey got his attention and, after a discussion, Marshall changed his mind, deciding that, after advice, the offence was outside the box.

Crusaders, to rub salt in the wounds, scored a second penalty of their own to book their place against the mighty Ballinamallard United in the May 4 showpiece.

McAree was rightly furious and will probably pay the price for shooting from the lip.

"The financial fallout from this is massive," he said. "Our target from the outset was European football - that incident could end up costing the club close of £250,000.

"You expect officials to get decisions right at this level. Between the referee and the linesman, they have made a hash of it."

And he is right. VAR may be costly but by not having it, it can deny clubs the chance of a bite at the European carrot because of human error. It could cost him his job and without that windfall it puts them in a much tougher spot.

NIFL has done an awful lot to improve the game here in recent times and I am sure they have looked at VAR, but surely there must be a better way to ensure that we get huge decisions correct?

Anyhow, that's the doom and gloom dealt with, the boom is with Ballinamallard. What a story and just reward for one of the nicest men in the game, Harry McConkey.

It is great for football in the west, and no one will give them a hope in the final, but they will relish that, the underdogs already having bitten some bigger boys along the way.

Crusaders have had to see off Glentoran, Linfield, Ballymena United and Coleraine to get this far and will go into a final as short-priced a favourite since Linfield played Carrick Rangers in 1976 - but we all know what happened then.

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