Tomorrow, much of the football world will be concentrated on what happens at Ibrox.
That Celtic has gone fully United Nations with the signings means that more distant parts of the globe will be watching us than ever have before. That’s good news. It’s good news because as Chris Sutton said today, the VAR debate risks becoming a farce now.
If there are a series of shocking decisions tomorrow the shamefully compliant Scottish media will not be the only ones watching, and that might make all the difference.
Sutton has sussed it. The decisions have been awful so far but so long as the ball is only being batted around this land of ours, and by a media which doesn’t want to acknowledge them lest they have to support reform, the people responsible have largely gone away with this. That will change if tomorrow we get indefensible calls as the world looks on.
Keevins was dead wrong today when he said that officials couldn’t be corrupt even if they wanted to with a game this big … but where he has a point is in that any official who does will have to face much greater scrutiny than he or his colleagues intends to provide.
This game will be a laughing stock if it’s decided by a dodgy decision, after we’ve been screaming about that possibility for weeks. The Scottish media likes to pretend that this is a country of paranoids. But the last thing any of these people want is anyone outside of Scotland looking too closely or too deeply at what the issues actually are.
When he wrote today about Beaton, I pointed out that he has debated the fact of the picture of Beaton in an Ibrox fan bar rather than its implications. But he can’t debate its implications, which is why he questions the facts.
Because the implications are pretty simple; if this was England that guy would never have been allowed to ref another game involving the clubs. If this was England, he’d have had to declare his team and he’d never have refereed the game that day and could have spent the whole thing cheering on his team from the bar instead of out on the pitch.
Our media is casually dismissive of such regulations as though they don’t serve a proper function in England and elsewhere. No-one has ever been able to tell us why those rules are good enough for just about every league in Europe but not this one. Why is there such resistance to them here? Where does that resistance come from and how is it justified?
I don’t want Celtic fans refereeing our games any more than I want fans from Ibrox doing it.
What if a Celtic supporting ref decides that he has to be harder on our club than on others because doing otherwise might invite the sort of attention no official wants?
And if you accept that argument then you have to accept that occasionally Ibrox supporting refs might do the same in their games … not to mention the prospect of outright match-fixing and corruption.
Those regulations exist because we’re dealing with human beings here and we’re all biased to some extent or another and in the heat of the moment are quite capable of acting on that.
Corrupt refs and officials have been found in almost every European league … here we don’t even acknowledge that such a problem could happen, although this country is, in football terms, a lot like the US when it comes to politics, only split between green states and blue … and the thing is, every journalist acknowledges that whatever form the Glasgow derby has taken, it’s still one of the most volatile in the game. One that has driven fans, players and even managers mad.
But refs don’t get swept up in any of that, eah? Not ever?
Not even with so much at stake?
That’ll be why some of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen came during especially heightened games or at moments of maximum tension.
Well there’s a hell of a lot at stake tomorrow and both sides know it full well.
As I said in the earlier piece, a win will not solve all of Ibrox’s problems but it will turn down the pressure dial a little bit and give the manager some breathing room. A defeat for them knocks them out of the title race, spells out the scale of the trouble they are in and lets the dogs of war off the leash. If we win the game comfortably the whole bubble of unreality could shatter.
This is why some of us are worried.
This is why some of us are nervous about what VAR might throw up in this one. And it’s why Sutton was right to remind people that the world is watching, because the world is, and our media and our governing bodies do not want the kind of questions to be asked that they have avoided up until now.