The Threat VAR Poses Celtic Is Both Clear And Present.

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My favourite eatery, one of those places I enjoy visiting frequently, opened a new branch this week and they invited me as a guest. The staff were great and showed me around and made sure I had as good a time there as I have at their first Glasgow site.

I do so enjoy sitting in there of an afternoon and eating and drinking and working. It’s a nice way to spend some time. Because of their generous hospitality I would have name-checked them here but considering what I’m about to write that might not have had the positive outcome I want for them.

It was whilst I was there that I realised the angle I would take for this piece, because I was reading as I waited for my food and I found out that Arsenal have vocally criticised the scandalous VAR decision they suffered at the weekend.

Arteta was fuming after the game, but that’s par for the course for a manager on the end of a bad call … what made this different is that his club backed him, aggressively, and I know that’s something we wish that we would do at times.

Imagine you had your own favourite restaurant and you went there one day and got food poisoning. Would you go back? Sure.

You might put it down to one bad experience and visit again on your regular routine. But if, after a handful of uneventful visits, it happened again, what would you do? Complain, maybe, ask them to up their game.

If it happened a third time, you’d probably avoid the place altogether, right?

And if you heard through the grapevine that others had suffered the same fate, with varying levels of seriousness, you might be relieved at only having suffered a day or two of stomach pains.

Would you care at that point what was actually going on with the place?

Would you care if it was staff incompetence or something sinister? No, because such explanations would be beside the point.

You’d find somewhere else to eat.

Today Paul Brennan put up a piece where he seemed to dismiss concerns over VAR by saying that if we were less good it would be a serious problem.

A lot of the replies he got expressed the view that this is a serious problem; they seemed to think that he’s suggesting that we keep on eating at our restaurant because all we’ve had are mild cases of the runs and that it’s therefore a matter of little consequence, an irritant rather than a threat.

For the record, I don’t think that’s what he’s saying at all; he was being ironical. Paul does not need to be told how serious this could be for us, he watches the same matches we do and knows that in this league where teams can assault our players with impunity and where eleven men behind the ball is the standard tactic and applauded by the media even when it doesn’t work that some of our games are going to come down to fine margins.

He also knows that the club from Ibrox does not have to be brilliant but merely one step ahead of their opponents in any given week and we will have a real title race on our hands. In that race VAR could have a devastating effect on us … he is one of the last people who would minimise that. He knows that it’s a big deal and a major problem already.

And here’s the thing; it doesn’t matter what the cause of this is, just as it wouldn’t matter to you what lay behind the illnesses from eating at your favourite place. It’s a good conversation piece but in practical terms it doesn’t matter a damn, only the outcome does. So, whether this is some sort of corrupt practice or sheer incompetence is less important than that we cannot trust the system to work to our benefit. That’s why it has to be addressed.

To me, it seems obvious that something stinks and someone needs to do the equivalent of going into the kitchen and poking through the fridges to see what the cause of the smell is. Not that you have to do too much digging to see the pattern in a familiar list of names like Collum, Dallas and Beaton; one look at those and you can identify the source easily.

So is this poison or just neglect?

Even if it’s poison, are we dealing with a maniac or a saboteur? Isn’t it just a semantic difference between a psychopath at work and someone who hates his bosses and wants to take down the restaurant?

Either way you would want an investigation.

I’ve said for years that some of the decisions we see are so inexplicable that they have to be the result of corruption, but again let’s consider that there are two possible types of corruption here; there is cheating and there is match-fixing.

I know we consider cheating to be the much more serious of the two, but is it?

I mean isn’t the guy sabotaging the restaurant a psychopath anyway regardless of his motivation? Isn’t a cheat still a cheat, regardless of his own motives?

Of course, he is.

And so whether some of these decisions are for Sevco gain or financial gain, we cannot just ignore them because our team happens to be winning at the moment.

The possibility that this could be some form of match-fixing is so obvious to me, and surely to others, that at the very least someone should be looking into that. The joke online last night was that if you bet on an Ibrox penalty kick every week you would make a right few quid over the course of the campaign … I’m moved to wonder if maybe somebody is?

And you can lay a bet on just about anything these days, and so much of it can be influenced by the officials, both those on the pitch and in the VAR room. Players are banned from betting on games, but every now and then a scandal emerges … why have we never caught officials betting on them? Because it doesn’t happen? Ha! Right! Don’t make me laugh.

On both sides of the border people are screaming at decisions which make no sense on the surface of it, and those are the kinds of things that VAR is supposed to make impossible now … so what in God’s name is going on?

Here in Scotland those names I wrote earlier are enough to convince even hardened cynics amongst our support that something is rotten, and we complain seemingly endlessly and nothing changes.

Part of the reason nothing changes is that Celtic stays silent.

I know Paul Brennan doesn’t believe this is something that we can safely ignore, and every now and again someone like him or me talks to someone at the club and is told that this matter is constantly under review and that representations are made to the appropriate people through the appropriate channels, and I guess I believe that to an extent. Our club doesn’t like to posture and shout from the rooftops about injustice … and especially not when we’re winning.

But see, I tend to think this is the best time to do it. When you come through the worst the officials can throw at you unscathed. Or are we really going to wait for a critical moment in a critical game before we raise nine kinds of Hell? I hope not.

Nobody should be kidding themselves, though, that we aren’t in trouble here just because we’ve not yet paid a high price for this, although we’re in the perverse position of ignoring a glaring, shocker in the last minute of the League Cup game at Rugby Park because most of us agree we didn’t deserve to take anything from the game anyway.

But in truth, as one of my favourite characters in one of my favourite movies of all time points out, “Deserves got nothing to do with it.“

The Haksabanovic penalty decision should have gone our way, even if it was no more earned than Ibrox’s late one against Hearts.

We’re taking our chances here if we don’t challenge this, and because we’re winning right now this is the best possible time to do it, so there are no allegations of sour grapes or anything else.

We no more have to accuse the SFA of cheating than you would stand outside the door screaming that your favourite eatery had deliberately slipped you some arsenic in the soup. But this club of ours should not be shy about publicly saying that this isn’t working and something is not right.

For the rest of us, we know exactly what we’re dealing with, as if we’d witnessed the guy tipping the stuff into the cooking pot like that CCTV scene in the Still Game episode with David Hayman.

When it looks like cheating and smells like cheating you don’t have to taste it to know what it is, and even if it’s not, is VAR a risk we can afford to take for much longer? I think we need to challenge more of these decisions publicly, and especially the ones that don’t affect the final result.

Because if we don’t, we’re just waiting for the ones that do.

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  • Johnno says:

    What I believe is currently in operation James, is trying to keep the survival lies in full flow regarding the scum?
    Not enough was done by ourselves as a club to crush the lie, especially with the 8th treble taking preference IMO.
    The beauty of being a Celtic supporter is as of now, is being the most successful club in Scotland, and still continuing to grow on the success, despite the level of corruption and cheating we have had to endure within the success.
    I know that the level of frustration is massive, but still remains as fairly low key to what we had to endure during the 90s and on many occasions since.
    No longer will I let the blatant cheating of officials, no matter how challenging it can remain, take away from the success and glory our club has already gained, and NEVER to be matched by a shower of scum, who depends upon cheating and lying just to keep themselves relevant?
    I agree about calling out the cheating, and fair play to the likes of yourself, amongst others for doing so, upon the subject.
    Disgusting that the board won’t back our concerns upon the matter either.
    But for my own sanity upon the issue, I take great pride in the fact, that with all the cheating and corruption faced within Scottish football, we remain the most successful in overcoming it all, by being Celts.
    Not everybody’s choice in doing so, but sleep with a clear mind, knowing I’m not a stinking cheating Hun bastard that depends upon such cheating tactics to stay relevant.

  • TonyB says:

    Celtic is,and for the forseeable future will remain a part of Scottish football.

    That being the case, anything that corrodes and corrupts the game here, has a consequent detrimental effect on the club.

    If Scottish football goes down the plug hole so does our club.

    A fanciful notion? I think not. This corruption will so undermine the game here that it will lose any vestigial credibility it has and lead to the loss of support for clubs already in a perilous financial position.

    I for one would not contribute, and have not for some years, contributed financially to a rigged game. I mean, would you play cards in a game you knew was crooked?

    And it’s not just the game itself: the media is populated by ex Ibrox tax dodgers. I have now stopped listening to Sportsound or watching Sportscene. If I wanted to listen to huns giving their views on my team and sevco with the same level of balance and impartiality, I would just go up to the local bowling club, and I live in Ayrshire.

    Unless a Herculean cleaning of the stables takes place then it’s just a matter of time before it all goes tits up, not with a bang but a whimper, as the poet said.

    I find it astonishing that even those who are currently benefitting from the corruption do not understand this.

    I am not optimistic as to the eventual outcome, but perhaps we all deserve what may be coming if we don’t do all we can to stop it before it’s too late.

  • John Copeland says:

    This could be much ,much more than a serious problem as I see it ! If there is some sort of inquiry into the integrity and match practices of our officials here in Scotland it would be duty bound to forensically examine every single part of our game going back decades , especially if we ever get to the stage where it is proven that certain officials ‘support and sympathise ‘ with clubs throughout the country . Every domestic game would have to be scrutinized throughout past decades .No stone should be left unturned if there is to be an audit by neutral officials . Yes ,it would be very difficult to prove that there was and is corruption in the game but the stench would last for decades . It’s all down to the ‘suits’ to earn their corn for once as we are drowning in toxic work practices by our alleged impartial football officials ….the campaign for honesty and candour starts yesterday ! If we the fans can see the errors and faults every single week …why can’t the boards of other clubs see them too ? Why is everyone afraid to formally and robustly complain to the governing bodies ?

  • Bob (original) says:

    “…every now and again someone like him or me talks to someone at the club and is told that this matter is constantly under review and that representations are made to the appropriate people through the appropriate channels…”

    I remember around 2012 that similar noises were being made?

    The issue now – IMO – is that there is also a trust issue with the Board,

    and even more so with the return of PL.

    I simply won’t believe that ‘representations are being made’ in the background

    about the dodgy match officiating.

    The support needs to see / hear Nicholson or the Board make public statements.

    It’s well beyond a bad joke now.

    The term “TavPen” should be included in the Oxford Dictionary. 🙁

  • John L says:

    Exactly. People from the other side of the city say we are talking shit, and we are winning things anyway, but , I said it’s because we have been so far ahead that it didn’t matter, but the closer you,s get, then the more dangerous it becomes to us all and Celtic FC in particular. We are definitely in a time of Clear and present danger as far as these dirty Cheating Ref,s are concerned, and when the 4th official blatantly smiles like a hun supporter at newco,s manager . We Are In Serious Trouble, the house will be burnt down before our club picks up the phone to the fire brigade


    Roll on the AGM.
    Let the Board explain their position.

    Give the Shareholders the opportunity to vent their frustration and disquiet
    that as Customers they are being shortchanged either accidentally, or by incompetence or by design.
    Quiet words by the back channels are useless if the situation does not improve.

    The Celtic Board has a Moral Obligation and a Duty of Care toward its playing staff to provide a ‘Safe Working Environment’.
    The reckless unpunished ‘assaults’ on our players has to stop. It could end their playing careers or at the least be a pivotal reason for moving away from Celtic Park or dissuading new prospects from joining.

    To further your ‘Culinary’ analogy James, The SFA and The LRA can be classed as 3rd Party providers of Services to the Sport in Scotland and by extension they have Legal a responsibility in providing Services that respect the Laws of the Land and the implicit and statutory right of their Customers, the Clubs, and by extension the end users, That’s us folk.
    The SFA’s own rules prohibit the duplicitous behaviour of its employees, espousing the ‘ level playing field’ philosophy. However we all know that in ‘the best wee bigoted Country in the World’ it only pays lip service to the concept. The SFA, like so many other Public ‘Institutions’ in Scotland, are fundamentally bigoted and the SFA nakedly Sectarian and racist in its Administration of the Game.

    So should we be pursuing the SFA and its minions through the Courts alleging Corruption based on bigotry and Anti Irish racism
    Should we take it out of the hands of the SFA and their rule book and challenge them based on the rule of Law.
    Somethings got to give. The temperature on this issue has been ratcheted up several ‘degrees’(sic) since the start of this season.
    A Season that could give Celtic, in addition to our inbuilt financial advantage over ‘thrum’, a seemingly Stratospheric boost in income that could be a precursor to an existential event for SEVCO.

    I dread the reaction of some of our fans the first time we actually drop points due to ‘honest mistakes’ or nonsensical decisions by the VARMEN on the Sky.

    • Liam B says:

      Irish is not a race.

      There are only 5 races on Earth and us Irish are part of the Caucasoid/Caucasian.

      Sectarianism, yes, anti Irish hatred, yes, but there can’t be Anti Irish racism when Irish isn’t a race and we must make sure we get our semantics right on this or we just look stupid.

  • Pan says:

    Unfortunately there is no one at Celtic of the calibre of Fergus.
    He had integrity, courage and sensibility and a toughness that would keep monsters at bay. He did keep them at may. He knew exactly how to deal with morons, cheats and liars.
    I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Litigation is the weapon to use.
    What are the Board waiting for? Or are they compromised?

  • Pan says:

    Bat – NOT may.

  • Scud Missile says:

    Lol I tuned into radio snyde tonight while in the bath for a laugh and I was not disappointed.
    I gave it until 15 minutes into the second part of programme and there was still no call from anyone calling out Dickinsons smirk and nod to the sevco manager after sevco had scored.
    The presenter tried to be flippant in the first part of the show by throwing a sarcastic comment to Halliday about Dickinson taking the ball from Halliday on the touchline yesterday by saying to Halliday is that what the smirk was about then from the 4th official,that was the only time this episode or shenanigans was mentioned on the show as far as I’m aware.

  • Larry says:

    Why don’t we just not pay for var? We are the main contributors and we are the ones who suffer most.

  • Roonsa says:

    One step ahead of the opposition. I like that analogy. The game that sealed Beale’s fate, the 3-1 home loss to Aberdeen …. there was nothing to be done. They really were THAT bad that day. However, if they can maintain a level of challenge then it makes the jobs of those “officiating” a lot easier.

    If we can see this then obviously those at Celtic do as well. And this isn’t a new thing – it’s been around for as long as I’ve been around and I’ve been around a long time.

    So why don’t Celtic say anything or challenge more? There must be a reason. And it’s probably a reason we will never know because, like I said, this is hardly a new problem for Celtic and fans of Celtic.

    Do you know what? Maybe that’s where the GB could have came in useful. Instead of displaying banners about Palestine, keep it closer to home. And I don’t mean “Douglas Ross is a C.U.Next.Tuesday.” That was just attention seeking bollocks athlough, to be fair, accurate. But they could have used their “position” to highlight the issue and get the column inches this subject requires. And it’s a common cause that we would have backed the GB on.

    That would have been too clever an idea for that lot, though.

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    That was an absolute Fcukin Disgrace on Saturday in the first half that I watched in a pub v Ross County…

    Cheating in plain sight by Munro on an industrial scale –

    He was right in front of that brutal challenge and did not produce a red card… Why on earth not then –

    The disallowed goals – The elbow on Scales – My goodness it was grim indeed…

    I then went to The Clachnacuddin v Rothes game – played with passion and plenty endeavour and you know what else – A DECENT REFEREE AND TWO DECENT LINESMAN AS WELL !

    Well done Joel Kennedy and your two assistants for officiating THE RULES OF THE GAME ON A FAIR AND FIRM BASIS…

    Jesus – How we could do with such honesty in The Scottish Premier League but we all know it’ll never happen…

    Clachnacuddin lost that game 0-1 – Not by bent officials but just bad luck on the day – Hit The Post, The Crossbar, Two cleared off the line, It just wasn’t their day but Rothes won the points honestly…

    At least I got value fair for The £10 entry fee and not a bloody fix and farce like a WWF wrestling match…

    How beautiful to see honesty in Scottish Football even though it’s at a very low level of the game, it’s still honest thankfully !

  • Mr magoo says:

    Looks like refs and var officials are as crooked in England as they are in Scotland James.

    Arsenal and Tottenham both flying high and winning streaks brought to an abrupt end by corrupt officials

    Don’t see man city get punished like that.

    Just saying

  • Patrick Cannon says:

    James a good piece a tag to what you were saying a good friend of mine his son in law lost a bet worth almost 50 k because Liam scales goal got disallowed, shocking we all have to stand up to this and hopefully celtic to

  • Guillermo Mac says:

    It is not just the blatant denial of stonewall penalties and the disallowing of perfectly legitimate goals that infuriates me; it is the constant water drip of ludicrous decisions like awarding Celtic a free kick when they are in transition and look likely to score. This allows the opposition to regroup while helping to adjust the stats for fouls awarded etc. These marginal gains will decide a League title sooner or later and it will be too late for the board to complain, not that they ever would.

  • Liam B says:

    It looks to me like the game’s been rigged for so long it would fall apart if they tried to undo the knots.

  • Mark b says:

    We got a massive let off at Ibrox VAR went in our favour. Up to this weekend we have more pens than anyone else in Scotland. I have no doubt the long term stats on Rangers pens are a clear statistical record of bias however.

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