After months of scrutinising and complaining over officiating decisions where Celtic were the beneficiaries, The Record is fighting the corner of refs this morning through the Keith Jackson column. In it he’s talking about how much pressure has been put on them so far this season, and how that pressure will only increase as we count down the games.
Well boo-hoo. What a wee shame for these put-upon people.
If you think you detect the drip of sarcasm from my words, then I won’t tell you that you’re wrong. It is there alright, and I’m not even trying to hide it. I don’t feel the least bit of sympathy for our officials or the positon they find themselves in, and nobody else in the Celtic support should feel any either. Pressure goes with the job. So should scrutiny.
They don’t get proper scrutiny. They are only getting it now because some decisions have fallen our way as we’ve reached the top of the table. They are still largely without criticism, because managers and players are punished for it. To claim that suddenly they are feeling the heat might be accurate, but only in that they usually never do.
These guys have had it so easy for so long that they’ve forgotten what being under pressure actually means. Players know about pressure; they are the ones who have to walk suspension tightropes because of dire decisions. Managers know about pressure. They are the ones who can get sacked because officials aren’t on the goddamned ball.
Celtic managers – Ronny Deila springs automatically to mind – have been denied opportunities to write their names in the history books because of abysmal decisions. He was denied what looked a certain treble by an astonishingly bad decision at Hampden in a cup semi final.
Managers do lose their jobs on the backs of referees here … but they can’t criticise the refs themselves? That’s perverse.
It is a level of protection afforded no-one else in the game.
Our officials are so well insulated from scrutiny that it has allowed opportunities for corruption. It is a matter of time before outside parties are influencing Scottish football games if they aren’t doing so already. We aren’t anywhere near on top of this, and the veil around how decisions are being made on the pitch doesn’t allow us to move forward.
The implementation of VAR is now critical; it will be at least another 10 months before it is brought in, which is scandalous and shows how backward and without a clue people in this game are. Officials should be getting trained up on it already, but instead we dither and delay and wait, although for what I really do not know.
Jackson says officials are “desperate” for the technology to be introduced; I daresay they are. But in the meantime they continue to be abysmal in some aspects of their jobs. Worse though is that the media is forever trying to interpret decisions that it actually doesn’t understand. For example, not every handball is a foul, such as in the case where the ball comes off the body of the same player … half of the press comments on a rule they fundamentally misunderstand and this creates numerous controversies which, in point of fact, don’t even exist.
That, in fact, is why the coverage of the “penalty incident” late in the game yesterday is so ridiculous; Dermot Gallagher has explained this rule already but found himself having to do it again today in the aftermath of the latest whinging.
But he shouldn’t have to. Officials have gotten themselves into this unholy mess by blocking any efforts to get them to explain these decisions when they happen. Had the refs been willing to put themselves in front of the cameras and talk about why these calls are made then half of them would never cause the headlines and hysteria that they do.
A large number of the “controversial” calls in our favour this season have been exactly like that one yesterday; based on a few frantic media personalities doing their nut because we got a result.
It would help the media, too, if they didn’t fill their ranks with so many ex-players from one particular stadium … if that doesn’t skew the coverage nothing does.
On Radio Scotland at the weekend the latest of them popped up; Barry Ferguson, which only proves that the quickest route to a media gig in the West of Scotland is the road that runs through Ibrox. It is ridiculous that so many of them are in the employ of the supposedly “neutral” national broadcaster, and it’s one of the reasons for all this wailing.
So yes, I agree that refs are under pressure and they are under scrutiny, but to be blunt they’ve had years to get their act together and they’ve failed. They supported reform only when it involved giving them more money and more cover from outside fire.
They have resolutely failed to convince people that they are neutral and unbiased, they have presided over an organisation which frowns on any outside agency or interference.
The only thing of note they’ve demanded and not gotten is a full time “professional” salary … which would be grossly at odds with their ability and is therefore the one thing that the SFA has so far resisted giving them. And I hope they continue to.
Celtic fans ought not to give credence to any of this nonsense about putting pressure on refs. They should be under pressure, and now that we have them under the spotlight I think it is vital to keep that spotlight on them at all times.
If they can’t handle it, they can quit. Maybe we’ll get some decent officials in then, or maybe, just maybe, the reforms that this game desperately requires.