I am writing this piece several hours before Celtic kicks off tonight, and as I’m heading out for the game soon I have no way, at this moment, of knowing whether or not the officials will have a decisive impact on how it plays out. I would not be surprised though.
Celtic’s AGM a couple of weeks back had a few crowd pleasing moments, or at least it had a few moments that were designed to be. Whether you were pleased or not depends on your point of view. One of them was an assurance that Celtic takes the refereeing issue seriously, but the caveat was that we do things in private instead of public.
So basically, this was the board telling us to take it all on faith.
Which to be blunt is a stretch.
Last night, Hibs were punished with a late game penalty.
I thought it was the right decision, but that’s not the same as thinking the ref had a good game or having the least doubt that he was pleased that it was an easy call.
But if there had been minimal contact, or no contact at all, I think it would have been a coin toss anyway. I don’t trust Beaton to make good decisions, or fair decisions, and I don’t know any Celtic fan who does.
A close-call decision like that, it can have a significant impact on this title race, even this early. As I said, I don’t know at the time of writing what decisions went for or against us tonight, and at the risk of jinxing us I will propose the following scenario.
Say a referee gives a decision against us on a night like tonight. We went into this game seven points behind. We were already under pressure before a ball was kicked. Imagine a bad call from an official leaves us seven points behind at the end of the night. At this stage in the season, that would lift their club and significantly deflate ours.
And over the course, that could very well be the decision that costs us. There is no point in pretending that this is not the case because it’s absolutely obvious that it could happen. A refereeing decision is what swung a night when Ibrox were looking at dropping points into one where they picked up the full three. And other such decisions will come in this campaign.
Our club needs to be proactive on this. On rival fan sites they have concluded that our comments on referees at the AGM have already swung a couple of decisions in our favour and you know what?
It’s not a wholly ridiculous suggestion.
A public declaration that we’re keeping our eye on these folks and that we take this matter seriously is, indeed, the sort of thing that can shift the pressure away from us and onto the officials themselves.
The problem is not that we’ve done it at the AGM but that we’ve only done it at the AGM.
This should be a line of attack of ours from the first day of the season to the last and if we’re not highlighting every bad decision, whether it involves us or not, then we’re leaving a potent weapon on the table to our own detriment.
That is bad form. It is stupidity.
It is time we put these people under the constant spotlight.
In the absence of reform that is the best course of action open to us.
We are mugs not to take it.