When Does The State Broadcaster Start Doing Its Damned Job When It Comes To The SFA?

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Last night, Radio Scotland carried an interview with Kenny Clark, the ex referee, and for all we know a member of the SFA’s incident review panel. Clark slammed the idea that refs can be biased. He said that it was “nonsensical” to suggest that someone could reach the top of the profession in this country and jeopardise that position by acting in a biased manner in favour of the team they support. Clark was not contradicted on that point.

The national broadcaster had him on as a guest.

Not only did they give him a platform to rail against those who want proper scrutiny, but they let him spout outright nonsense and agreed with it. The BBC took a side. It allowed the predispositions of its panellists to over-ride its public service commitment to impartiality, and not for the first time.

The possibility that Scottish referees are biased is not one that we can lightly set aside, but this site and others have said repeatedly that bias does not have to exist for referees to make bad decisions, but attempts to simply write that possibility off are absolutely absurd.

The standard of refereeing in Scotland is absolutely abysmal. A lot of them aren’t up to the job and that such lax standards are permitted by the lack of scrutiny they get is part of the reason so many incompetents reach the top of the profession here. Clark was never a great referee. Those who say he’s one of the best Scotland ever produced are probably right, but that is not exactly the highest of praise. On the contrary, it’s a big part of what’s wrong.

The fact that Clark might well be one of the anonymous ex-refs who sits on the panel was never brought up. Yet it’s only a small part of what’s wrong with allowing him on there in the first place. His comments should have been given the proper scrutiny.

His assertion that a referee’s football allegiances do not matter is manifestly ridiculous.

No other major association in Europe would accept such a perverse assertion. Of course it matters. We’re dealing with human beings here, not mindless automatons and even with the best will in the world bias can, and does, creep, into a person’s judgement however unconsciously.

UEFA and FIFA certainly do not agree with Clark’s statement, which is why we have foreign refs for international games and in continental competitions.

If Scotland played England in an international competition game and UEFA gave Stuart Attwell the whistle for that match you would hear the anguished cries and screams of fury all along Pacific Quay and everybody knows it.

To pretend otherwise is to insult the intelligence of every football supporter in this country, and that’s what the BBC did the other night.

In England, referees have to declare their footballing allegiances.

Their media, their association, does not believe this is absurd. They protect the integrity of the sport with everything they have, and they do not allow even the possibility of corrupt decision making to blight the game. They might have no grounds to believe that it has, but they are not prepared to ignore it.

The thing is, we know what has gone on at Hampden down through the years.

We know what members of the association are responsible for and have been involved in.

One President had to resign because it was proved in court that he deliberately held up the registration of Jorge Cadete. Another signed the EBT documents that spiralled into the scandal which brought down the second biggest club in the land, and he presided over a period in which that club was withholding contracts which proved the tax scheme existed. The head of referees was fired for sending a sectarian email, and in the same week a ref and a linesman were found to have conspired in telling lies to Celtic’s manager about a key decision in a game.

And you know and I know that I could go on and on and on.

For anyone to summarily dismiss the importance of a referees footballing allegiances when making big decisions in games would be ridiculous enough. But the real scandal here is that the national broadcaster allowed him to do so, without subjecting that claim to the forensic analysis which it deserved.

The BBC failed its listeners last night, by becoming a PR outlet for the SFA.

When Clark says that no referee would risk his job by making a biased decision he must have been laughing inside. With the backing of the SFA and the connivance of a media which is incapable of doing the job it’s meant for any official who did so would be quite safe and everybody in that studio last night must have known that too.

The BBC has proved that it will not be part of the solution.

It’s because they are, as they have long been, part of the problem.

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