No sooner had Celtic released its statement on John Beaton than we were facing the counterblast; his mobile number had allegedly been leaked online and he had been subjected to threats. Let’s get a couple of things out front before we go on; none of that stuff is acceptable, if true.
That stuff should not happen, none of it.
But let’s not get overboard here. He’s taken a bit of stick over the phone; that’s as far as it goes. Others in Scottish football have suffered far more serious harassment. At least nobody is arguing that Beaton “brought it on himself.”
When a linesman was actually struck by a coin at Livingston both the media and the SFA made it a one day story and moved swiftly on. Yet this looks like swelling into a major witch-hunt – with Celtic recast as a wicked organisation. That is only part of what stinks.
For weeks the same outlets which are now shrieking invective at Celtic and our fans were entirely supportive of similar calls out of Ibrox for inquiries into the decisions made by Willie Collum. I said then that they were awfully late to the party; some of us have known Scottish referees reek for years and have been saying so the whole way through.
Police are “investigating” the incidents involving Beaton’s phone. Modern technology makes that a relatively straightforward task. The media has the sum total of nil to contribute to their enquiries. The point is not what some eejits online have done; the point is Beaton himself, and the deplorable decision the SFA made in midweek. That is the issue Celtic has quite legitimately raised. Everything else is a distraction, and the hacks know that full well.
Their sudden embrace of Beaton and their sudden leap to the defence of the integrity of our refs is embarrassing, to be frank, an epic knee-jerk reaction and pretence of responsibility in their ranks which is absolutely nauseating, especially when one considers how little attention has been paid to several all other high profile incidences of behaviour online and in the stands.
On top of that, it’s as if months of doubts and questions – very legitimate questions – over the standard of refereeing have been erased overnight.
The SFA statement today expressing their “deep dismay” over this is a joke; it mentions an incident which occurred at a “lower league match prior to Christmas” but somehow omitted the far more high profile one, which I mentioned earlier, and which we all saw happen on national television. All their statement does is reinforce the notion that refs should be treated with kid gloves, as if they are some sort of protected species.
I have long argued that this is the attitude which has bred corruption in other countries. Refereeing decisions must be subjected to proper scrutiny. When their mistakes are so glaring, and so obvious as in this case, then questions have to be asked. Even if there is no bias in Beaton’s performance or in his after-match reportage the possibility should not simply be discounted with wishy-washy sentiments such as those Maxwell expressed tonight.
His plea that officials be respected is an undisguised coda calling for their decisions to be respected, regardless of how outrageous those decisions are and it’s simply not on. When clubs, players, managers and fans see rank incompetence in our officials it should be confronted instead of ignored, which is clearly what Maxwell and the refs themselves want.
This “our refs are unimpeachable” nonsense would simply not fly in any other country. If a football federation said that anywhere else in Europe they would be laughed at. Refereeing bias has been proved in almost every other country where it’s been alleged and those associations which have taken claims of bias seriously – whether in the guise of outright favouritism or match-rigging for financial gain – have invariably found it when they went looking for it.
Scottish football’s “head in the sand” attitude refuses to even consider the possibility, and that is unique in its stupidity.
In England, where there is not the blood and fury surrounding this issue, they make referees declare their allegiances as a matter of course; we are, literally, the only developed football nation which has such a blind view of this issue.
Our media has done nothing to help fix this and other problems with our referees, partly out of their shallow ignorance and cowardly tendency to refuse to debate issues instead of confronting them and partly because it only becomes important to them when they can take a shot at our club.
Any time we have raised legitimate questions about the scandalous standard of officiating we’ve been greeted with similar headlines and similar allegations of threats and intimidation; in the meantime, a certain other club who’s fans have made threats and intimidation into an art form is allowed to say whatever it wants … and it usually finds a media audience that is receptive to its drum-banging.
If we’re paranoid there are so many, many reasons why.
We have a long history to look back on, and there is ample evidence that we’re still repeating it.
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