By George Overhill

22nd Apr, 2023 | 1:10pm

Chris Sutton fears Rangers vs Celtic impact by SPFL 'debacle' amid 'bizarre' verdict

Chris Sutton is concerned that the Scottish Cup Old Firm derby could be impacted if Rangers or Celtic players are caught in VAR controversies this week.

The midseason introduction of video assistant technology into Scottish football continues to divide opinion, and after Graeme Shinnie was sent off for Aberdeen for a challenge on Jack Baldwin of Ross County last Friday (14 April) it is once again centre stage.

The Dons appealed the VAR-assisted red card but were “angered even more” according to Football Scotland (21 April) when the independent panel instead added an additional game suspension, and Sutton has called it “bizarre” and a “major worry” that multiple officials have made baffling decisions so frequently this season.

In his Daily Record column Sutton said: “Next week’s Scottish Cup semi-finals will be a big one. You’ve got Celtic going for a potential Treble, Rangers trying to salvage their season and Falkirk and Inverness on the verge of a final and massive pays days that could really impact their future plans. But even before we get to next weekend, the shadow of VAR is hanging over the clubs involved.

“It’s only natural for players to start thinking about Hampden this weekend, but it will be shoved to the backs of their minds for 90 minutes. For Celtic, they want to get over the Premiership finishing line as soon as possible so I wouldn’t expect Ange Postecoglou to take the foot off the gas against a much-improved Motherwell today.

“But there might be this lingering doubt – what if there’s some kind of VAR call that rules them out of the semi? Look at the Graeme Shinnie debacle this week.

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“The Aberdeen captain’s tackle wasn’t deemed a red card by ref Euan Anderson but VAR stepped in and got him sent off. You could debate the merits of the decision all day.”

One last risk

It always has been the nature of football that every time players step out on the pitch they are at risk of being on the wrong end of a wild refereeing decision as much as a wild challenge.

That should be gradually being ironed out with VAR in place, but instead of the technology catching errors it seems to affect the mindset of officials and give them extra opportunities to make confusing decisions.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that unavoidably subjective decisions are always going to exist and yet fans and pundits assume VAR means no calls they disagree with will ever happen again.

But it is undeniable that even allowing for that, the consistency from official to official, and often from decision to decision with the same official, fluctuates hugely.

If any key Rangers players are ruled out of the derby at Hampden on 30 April because of an issue at Pittodrie on Sunday (23 April) it will be hugely frustrating to Michael Beale.

Gers fans won’t mind as much if such a fate befalls any of Ange Postecoglou’s men against Motherwell a day earlier, but Sutton certainly won’t be happy.

In other Rangers news, it looks like Michael Beale’s first signing of the summer might already have been secured.