Date: 18th December 2018 at 8:12pm
Written by:

Stewart Milne, who famously slammed Celtic’s call for an inquiry into historic issues within the game, is using The Daily Record to push a summit on “transparency” which is due to take place in the New Year. This follows his call for such a summit earlier in the season.

It’s nice that some people demand meetings and hearings and inquiries and get them.

Other clubs are dragged through the muck for daring to suggest them.

We can only wonder what has happened to bring him to this sudden realisation that the game is not perfect.

Doubtless, he will be looking for Celtic’s support.

He may not get it elsewhere.

Milne has been one of the people in the game who has been most resistant to change.

On this site, we welcome any initiative which brings more openness to the sport and it would be churlish of us to oppose it just because it comes from someone like him, but this meeting appears to be focussed on referees and how the discipline system works; far be it for me or anyone else to knock the suggestion that these things need fixing, but the game has bigger issues.

The whole sport needs greater transparency. It needs wholescale reforms, not more alterations to a disciplinary system which will bring only incremental benefits. Refereeing is a shambles, but so too is club licensing, financial control regulations, fit and proper person tests and a whole lot more.

If this summit tackles those issues then great, and we don’t particularly care where the momentum for those changes comes from.

If it doesn’t tackle them then all the meeting is good for is whistling in the wind.

Already, I sense it is going to end in some kind of fudge. Scottish football cannot get its story straight on the issue of refereeing.

You have clowns like Levein, who’s contribution to the debate is that Celtic and the Ibrox NewCo should pay for VAR out of their European money on one hand and those who push the “West of Scotland” favouritism garbage on the other.

There are measures that would change this; making refs register their footballing allegiances, having them made accountable for the bad decisions they make, the implementation of VAR instead of it being used as another wedge issue, having the SFA publish the findings of disciplinary decisions where people can see them … every time these are raised people scream about agendas.

The media is a particular problem; its support for some of these proposals is lukewarm at best and it vocally deplores others, although it never offers coherent reasons why. The resistance to the idea that some decisions might be motivated by bias leaves the door open for decisions that certainly will be motivated by it. The press would rather live in ignorance, or pretend ignorance, than confront unpleasant realities they might have to write about.

Their response to the referees strike of ten years ago, which they blamed Celtic for, shows us what they really care about, and it has led to a football culture in Scotland where refs are now a protected species although their decisions can cost clubs millions and get managers the sack.

It is unacceptable and one of the first things that has to change.

Like I said, if Milne is serious and he supports real reform then of course he should have the support of the clubs, and Celtic in particular.

But I already get the impression that this is a talking shop, focussed on one narrow issue, and that in the end a lot of talk will be about “lessons being learned” and people respecting each other’s views … and nothing will change.

Finally, all this is window dressing on a larger landscape.

Many of the problems we have in the present are rooted firmly in the past – such as the way the refs strike has impacted on decision making at the current time – and until those issues are fully confronted, and dealt with, they will continue to haunt this game and hold it back.

Our sport is tainted, and we know exactly how it got this way and exactly what needs to happen to fix it.

Milne still thinks the stains on this game can be indefinitely ignored; they can’t.

Unless these matters are resolved, once and for all, in an appropriate fashion they will continue to drag the whole game down. Whatever Milne is after here, I know – we all know – that he’s not interested in that stuff at all.

If some of us are sceptical tonight, this is the reason why.

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