Celtic Fans Don’t Want Biased Referees Of Any Sort, Even Those Backing Us.

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An interesting story from the other day has been nagging at me ever since; the interview with Steve Conroy in which he revealed one of the worst kept secrets in football, which is that he’s a Celtic fan.

This story appeared almost as if it was there to produce a riposte to the idea that officials might all support one club.

None of us has ever believed otherwise.

Celtic fans are concerned that Scottish football refereeing is not fit for purpose.

And yes, we have a suspicion that there is a profoundly anti-Celtic bent to much of the fraternity, and that its organisations are tied up with too many of our traditional enemies.

But even if this were no so, even if Scottish refs allegiances were split along demographic lines it would still be wrong.

Conroy’s article proves that we have as much to fear from Celtic fans in black as we do from enemies in those colours. Conroy said he had to hide his allegiance, and let’s be honest the best way to draw attention to it is to give us decisions.

The suspicion remains – and it echoes through his interview – that Conroy was less inclined to do so than referees who were neutral, so as not to tip anyone off. He was harder on us than other clubs, because he didn’t want to give himself away.

This is bad. Far worse would be if Conroy or others had actually gone out of their way to give Celtic favourable decisions. No fan I know has ever actually wanted that, and I don’t understand how anyone possibly would.

The greatness of football is in knowing that your team has won and earned it, that they’ve proved themselves to be the best.

Nobody wants to be the recipient of cheating.

It is the only thing worse than being the victim of it. Celtic fans just want to know that the game is clean. And we want to know that aside from honest officials that they are good at what they do too.

All the moaning today from clubs and media about bad decisions last night is only talk unless there is action to back it up, and yet the game continues to push the implementation of VAR down the road.

Celtic fans have always supported reform, and we continue to support it.

The rash of decisions which people are questioning this season are different only in that they have fallen in favour of our club and not the one across the city; I believe almost of all of the allegedly questionable ones were actually correct decisions … and I’ve started to take a perverse satisfaction in the ones that are really bad because I know people love it when that happens to us.

What’s more, I know it’s going to take those decisions to push this game towards answers.

Because every time, in recent years, clubs have suffered at the hands of blatant Ibrox bias the refrain from their managers, and sections of the press, has always been the same; you never get anything when you come up against “the Glasgow clubs.”

Maybe now that we’re the club, and not the other one, who seem to make the headlines like this we’ll finally see Scottish football get off its backside.

Celtic fans don’t care either way. I don’t care what the agenda is, only about what the results would be. This game needs a deep clean … and Celtic fans have been calling for it forever. How we get to it suddenly seems pretty unimportant.

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  • John S says:

    From sixty years of experience I can say that there was always two types of referees in Scotland. The blatantly bias ones who supported the Ibrox clubs and Protestantism, and the extremely occasional ones that were thought to be Celtic fans/Catholics who bent so far over backwards to prove their neutrality that they gave arguable decisions against Celtic.

  • Damian says:

    I really don’t know the solution though.

    Easy to say you shouldn’t ref a team you support. We often hear that this doesn’t happen in other countries. That seems to mean it doesn’t happen in England.

    In England you can be an Arsenal fan, become a ref and get to the top level, officiating the highest profile matches, without ever officiating over an Arsenal match.

    In Scotland, if you’re a Celtic (or Rangers) fan and you become a ref, not being able to officiate Celtic matches rules you out of, say, 45% of the highest profile matches in your country. A pretty big career barrier, which is hardly likely to attract a better quality of applicant.

    If, as is often suggested, that Rangers or Celtic supporting refs shouldn’t officiate matches involving either team (the equivalent of which doesn’t even apply in England – nothing to stop the Arsenal supporting ref officiating Spurs matches), then it rules you out of not far short of 100% of true highest profile games.

    Poor them, you might argue. Fair enough. But, this also creates a problem for the game. Referees are obviously recruited from the pool of people interested in football. In our country, I’d speculate that something like 60% of the football fan population supports (or at the very least could be seen by others to support) either Rangers or Celtic. The consequence here is that we’re limiting potential refs for the matches for both teams to the remaining 40%. It’s hard enough to find sufficient quality from the 100%.

    What’s the solution? Foreign refs? So, if you’re a young Scottish ref you cannot officiate top matches at all? That’s what the SFA should be saying to youngsters taking their refereeing badges? Genuine question. I don’t know the answer. Bias is inevitable. I’m a Celtic fan. If I were a ref was officiating over a match involving Celtic, I’d send opponents off for sneezing.

    • Stephen McAdam says:

      No Real Celtic ever puts the dead club before our great club in a sentence! Very strange either an uncle tim or from the dark side me thinks

    • Jim Duffy says:

      Well said Damian ,in England the sectarian anti Irish comes into it , because there’s so many teams which could be Catholic or protestant but in reality there’s no such thing in England ,so they are not restricted to faith or creed ,and there a lot more teams to support,but the bottom line is ,as much we Scots hate England, the English don’t give a fuck about Huns or Tim’s ,but the caveat is they don’t respect or give a fuck about Scottish football.But as I always tell my ignorant English friends my team was the first to win the European cup.

    • Ed says:

      I agree Damian,
      But the SFA can look abroad to the KNVB (Dutch FA) or the KBVB (Belgium FA).
      They use a system where the referees get points per match. For a good call they get plus points and for blatant bad calls they get minus points. These points will be used to grade the rank of the referees. So in the Netherlands and Belgium it can happen that a FIFA grade referee who is terrible ends up the next season whistling only matches in the second tier.
      To prevent bias the points count double if the referee whistles his favorite team (eg. the ref is an Ajax fan and he whistles Ajax v PSV. He makes a mistake, he will get -2 points instead of -1 point.).
      Next to this the referees need to explain their descissions after the match for national television. So they explain what they did see and why they decided this outcome.
      This gives the referees no excuses to think of if they made a mistake. It gives a clear and relaible point where good referees get rewarded. The Dutch referees are one of Europese best at this moment.

      • Damian says:

        Interesting response, thanks. This, I completely agree with. I don’t dispute at all that the refereeing service the SFA provides to the clubs (and that the clubs pay for) is a bad system, with virtually no sufficient oversight or accountability.

        The aggressive/physical/disproportionately-in-the-air nature of the game in Scotland (as it is in England, Wales and Ireland) might conspire to make poor decisions more common than they might be in countries where the nature and culture of the game is more technical, but even on relative terms, that’s no reason why the oversight and accountability can’t be far better.

        I think along with this, full time refs would improve the standard over time, by attracting better candidates who are more willing to be held accountable.

        Thanks again for the thoughtful and interesting points and examples.

      • Damian says:

        Presumably, by the way, there would also have to be something of an objective and transparent way of judging the decisions? Would the two recent single goal victories Celtic have had from quite-possibly offside goals be judged to be bad decisions with a points deduction for the ref? Would it be two points down for the linesman, one down for the ref? Would it be within the margin for error? Like, a bad offside call that brings a point-penalty for the ref has to have visible grass between the attacking player and the defender? Presumably ‘soft’ penalties wouldn’t be bad decisions because a ‘soft’ penalty generally means the correct decision, even though it would often not be given?

        Nevertheless, I like this. It’s a thing that could happen, whereas Rangers or Celtic supporting refs never officiating Rangers or Celtic matches couldn’t really.

  • larsson7 says:

    Penalty Rangers.!!!!!!!

  • NICK66 says:

    Every game, however far from being influencial it’s perceived can influence the others. The potential “Title contenders” receive “honest errors”, negating their ability to truly be contenders. Mix up the results in the ” best of the rest” and let the main title contenders be decided by different dubiety. VAR will bring an openess to officiating games not seen before. It will never be 100%, wouldn’t expect it, but, it will stop a lot of in game nonsense.

  • Stephen McAdam says:

    All refs should be neutral ie dont support either club in any game! I mean you dont see international football allowing it!Or in England! As it stands the Lanarkshire loyal that drink in and play golf at a Daziel golf club in motherwell are huns! Fact! this was harboured for years by Dallas, his son once put off the tv on said club after we scored against the “poison” as he walked out that is gospel! He in his mate Beaton thick as thieves so there a massive issue right there and well known! So as it stands in brigadoon if there were no hun refs there be no refs! Disgrace our club, and in particular lawell allowed this and didnt push for reform.On last nights goal for starters abada isnt even offside! And on the interfering with play bates goes towards him with an elbow!! But let’s not let the truth get in the way off the hun media and uncle Tim’s like martin on plz rabble on for days,weeks maybe months ! When huns get offside goals as they did against Motherwell and the raft of penalties they get not a peep! Why? Cause its expected! Hail Hail ” We shall not be moved”!!!

    • Stephen McAdam says:

      Of the hun media I meant

    • Stephen McAdam says:

      Dallas put tv off! I meant

    • Damian says:

      You don’t see it in England as I was saying in my post above, but I’m not sure England is typical. Most European countries are dominated by a small number of clubs. It’s seems unlikely that no Zagreb fan has ever officiated one of their games, or even that not Ajax/PSV fans have officiated one or the other. It just seems logistically difficult.

      I also looked into the Lanarkshire thing too. Only three top flight refs came from that association, including Collum, who’s definitely not a Rangers fan. Clancy and Robertson are Celtic fans, though neither are from Lanarkshire. Seems a strange fixation on Lanarkshire too, given that it has the highest proportion of Irish descending Catholics per head of population anywhere in Scotland.

  • Martin says:

    The absolute gold standard VAR (and the way it should be done in Scotland in my view) is akin to rugby’s TMO. We should have the ref mic on so we can hear what they’re all saying, at all times. Hard to make up off the cuff bullshit and it adds a layer of scrutiny. And the VAR should go on big screens too (where available) so fans in the stadium can see what the ref is seeing.

    Any impediment to full transparency will fuel the fire in the madness of Scottish football. Tailor it to the audience and it will work well.

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