It’s the debate no-one in Scottish football seems to want to have, but I think the walls are closing in on those who are dead-set against referees here having to declare their allegiances before they get games.
The measure has been adopted across Europe.
It happens in England and at every level of elite football. UEFA will not let a Scot referee games involving one of our clubs in the Champions League; why not? Because of the possibility he would not be impartial.
They take no chances at all.
Yet our media refuses to engage whenever anyone brings this up.
This stuff is so commonplace now that, paradoxically, you have to look really hard to find a report about it. Because people take it for granted. It’s no longer newsworthy.
The systems have been in place for such a long time that it would amaze people in other countries to find out that we have yet to adopt them here at home, in our domestic game.
But there are stories out there about this stuff, whenever a particularly big example of the rule in effect is noted. You will not get a bigger story than of how an English referee – Anthony Taylor – was told that he would not be eligible to officiate the World Cup Final.
The reason why? The Falklands War, in 1982.
This is not a joke. Because of “lingering bad blood” English refs are banned from officiating at matches involving Argentina and their officials are banned from taking games which involve England.
That’s how seriously FIFA takes this stuff.
A report in The Times, which reported on the bad news for Taylor, said, “Sources with knowledge of FIFA’s appointment system say that ensuring neutrality is deemed as a top priority and means that English referees would not be put on matches involving Argentina — and by the same token referees from Argentina would not be given England games.”
“Neutrality is deemed as a top priority.” By FIFA. And UEFA. And most other European leagues. But in a country where two clubs are supported by the bulk of the populace we pretend that it’s not an issue here. That’s all we’re doing of course; pretending.
We’re pretending, and nobody is convinced by the pretence.
Not even those hacks who spend all their time telling us that Scottish football does not have biased officials and have no interest in finding out otherwise.
They know as well as we do that it’s as certain as death and taxes that we routinely have games refed by the team the whistler supporters … at every other level in the game this is forbidden. Why is it not forbidden here?
So the next time you are arguing this point with someone, and especially one of the hacks, remember Anthony Taylor because he’s our poster boy now, a guy who would have refereed a World Cup Final but for a conflict that happened 41 years ago and was a minor skirmish in the grand sweep of wars this island has been involved in.
Doubtless the likes of Tom English would tell people to get over it already, but that’s the thing; a lot of people can’t get over this stuff and FIFA knows it and that’s why FIFA tries to keep officials from these countries away from each other.
For God’s sake, can we stop with the nonsense that this isn’t a legitimate line of debate?
Can we please stop kidding ourselves on that the way we do things here is either normal or even healthy? Even if the game here is not bent we’ve created the perfect conditions for it and these people have to recognise that if they recognise nothing else.