The need for reform of refereeing is a hot-topic again after this weekend. When is it not a hot topic lately? Every series of games seems to bring fresh outrages, and although the media loves coming up with excuses for the incompetence of our whistlers – if that’s what it is – this is a road with no Emerald City at the end of it.
Refereeing reform is urgent, it is necessary and it will do more good in our sport than just about anything else except the FFP regulations which no-one seems to care about. Refereeing reform will do more than rid us of some of these decisions.
It will protect our sport from corruption, far into the future.
This weekend, after the Motherwell boss became the second manager in the space of a week to question a decision that went the way of Celtic, I heard the gutless Hugh Keevins talking about his comments on the radio.
Keevins should be notorious amongst all those who are engaged in debating this matter, for he made the most ridiculous statement on the issue that I have ever heard. He was the one who said we dare not investigate because we might find something and then, as he put it, “that’s our national sport finished.” Better, in his eyes, to let corruption go undiscovered, eating away at us like a cancer, rather than confronted and finally defeated.
Needless to say, he wasn’t impressed by the Motherwell manager’s comments. “What is he trying to say here?” he inquired, as it if wasn’t obvious.
The Motherwell boss is alleging that we were shown some form of favouritism.
Whether it’s Celtic leaning bias or a ref not wanting to offend the “big club”, or something as simple as a guy reacting to the crowd instead of what was in front of him, it all amounts to the same thing; a referee who didn’t give a decision on its merits but some other factor.
And I have no problem calling Keevins a coward for not wanting to discuss that, but it’s obvious to everyone who views this with a critical eye that this happens and not just sometimes but regularly.
I’ve lost count of the number of managers who’ve made similar allegations down through the years. I’ve also never seen their clubs act on it.
Celtic fans are baffled as to why Carter Vickers was booked at the weekend rather than his attacker sent off.
The media has sought to explain it away with a ridiculous dive into the rule-book; a free-for-all results in bookings on both sides. Oh yeah? So that means if I punch out an opponent on the pitch I only get sent off if everyone else stays in his corner?
I mean we’re expected to swallow that. We’re expected to accept that as the answer, but most fans I know are offended by the idea that we should. We’re not even saying here that refs are anti-Celtic; I wouldn’t be any happier if I thought pro-Celtic refs were cheating and influencing games. I suspect it’s a combination of various factors including basic incompetence.
All I know for sure is that there will be a breaking point somewhere, and it might take VAR to do it because as I’ve said before it is easy for refs to hide behind their pitiful excuses at this moment in time, pretending not to have seen things or to have misinterpreted what they did see.
It will be much harder, in future, to do so when they’ve watched a key moment several times.
At the point where we’re still getting mistakes, something will have to be done.
Whether it’s a summit of the clubs and a new direction hashed out, or investigations into some of the more ridiculous choices officials have made … the truth will out and many in the press corps will pretend to be shocked that our game was ever so vulnerable.
But that’s been obvious to Celtic fans for years, and there are supporters at other clubs who have seen it just as clearly and have been vocal in commenting on it. The press would rather pretend it didn’t exist. Club managers are too scared to push it in public and God alone knows what the problem their chairmen have doing so in private is.
I know this; no-one wants to take a lead in refereeing reform, not yet. But Celtic fans will have the last laugh on this, because it will come sooner or later and everything we’ve been talking about for all these years will finally be dragged into the light.
And nobody will be laughing at us when that day comes around.