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Scottish referees chief Crawford Allan welcomed Rangers manager Philippe Clement’s “very helpful” backing of match officials after the VAR independent review panel claimed there had been a sharp increase in wrong decisions.

The IRP judged that 16 key match incidents (KMIs) have reached an incorrect outcome since the start of the season- with 13 of them coming in the second full round of cinch Premiership fixtures.

Rangers had made a request to the Scottish Football Association that Willie Collum be excluded from any involvement in any Gers match following a non-penalty incident in the Old Firm game at the end of last year.

Celtic full-back Alistair Johnston handled the ball inside his own penalty area at Parkhead under pressure from Gers attacker Abdallah Sima.

Celtic v Rangers
Celtic’s Alistair Johnston was at the centre of controversy against Rangers (Jane Barlow/PA)

The IRP claimed indeed that Collum should have recommended an on-field review for a potential penalty but noted that the offside ruled that the decision not to award the spot-kick was ultimately correct.

Ahead of Collum taking charge of rangers’ cup tie with Ayr last weekend, Clement dismissed notions that any referee is “not neutral” and vowed to leave the past behind as he noted that he makes mistakes “every day probably”.

Allan, head of referee operations at the SFA, said of Clement’s support: “That was very helpful. That comment was very supportive and I know it was well received by the referees.

“I think that’s what we should be doing, we should be focusing in on the positive.

Willie Collum
Willie Collum was at the centre of a storm (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“I have seen other recent appointees to Scottish football, managers, saying that the initial experiences of Scottish referees are positive, so long may that continue.”

Allan was keen to stress that there was no chance that Collum would have been taken off Rangers duties.

He said: “Every referee will get considered for every match which is at their experience level. I will reiterate that, the Scottish FA will appoint referees to matches as they see fit.”

Among the 13 decisions that the IRP questioned  this time around were two penalties for Rangers  – one given for a challenge on Ross McCausland at Livingston and against Sima against Dundee at Ibrox – and the one awarded against Light Blues defender John Souttar against Kilmarnock.

Jose Cifuentes (centre)
Jose Cifuentes (centre) was sent off against Dundee (Steve Welsh/PA)

It was also claimed that the yellow card initially handed out to Rangers midfielder Jose Cifuentes against Dundee in December should have been sufficient.

Cifuentes was initially booked by referee Kevin Clancy for a challenge on Amadou Bakayoko but that was upgraded to a red following a VAR review.

Asked if the rise in wrong calls from the perspective of the IRP was a concern, Allan said: “We see it as realism. Football is subjective. We accept the view of the independent review panel and we think they have a role to play in assisting us to ensure we are not seen to be marking our own homework.

Clydesdale House
A view of the Scottish Football Association’s VAR headquarters at Clydesdale House (Gavin McCafferty/PA)

“In terms of the numbers, we look at the reviews and types of incidents and we have got a heck of a lot more right.

“We have literally got hundreds correct and Scottish football has a habit of focusing in on the tip of the iceberg when we have a huge iceberg below which no-one really bothers about because we get it right.

“In the hundreds of potential reviews that we have had this year, we are in the same percentage areas as other countries.

“It is something we won’t lose sight of but we will continue to develop our referees and support them.”