“It’s not a good look, is it?” That was not this blog, nor another Celtic fan site, commenting on Ibrox’s latest game-saving penalty decision yesterday. It was the manager of Aberdeen. For once, a manager on the other end of one of those decisions had acted accordingly and refused to mince his words or to make out that the “statistical anomalies” aren’t now towering over the game like Everest. Outside of Celtic, I didn’t think anybody cared.
Late last week, after the Celtic AGM, a lot of us were frustrated about the Celtic board once again laughing and cracking jokes about the scandalous state of Scottish officiating. These people aren’t blind and they are in charge of a multi-million pound business, so they know that this is neither normal nor right. They will have spotted the pattern.
Every club which comes up against Ibrox knows Warren Buffet’s metaphorical cop is on their tail, watching for anything that justifies a negative call. Celtic knows that cop is always right behind us, keeping a watchful eye. In all the time that VAR has been in operation, every club in the country has suffered from penalty calls which can only be spotted with instant replay and a very strict interpretation of the rules. Only one club is an exception.
How many penalties is that since Clement became manager over there? He’s got four extra points on the back of the late ones; no wonder he was singing the praises of VAR after the game today. He could be at Ibrox for years without changing that tune. It works for some clubs. Theirs being the main one. It will never work on behalf of the rest of us.
After the Hearts game, I said that I’d rarely seen a jersey pull penalised by a penalty kick. We got one for that yesterday; I was flabbergasted. In the aftermath of the game, the Motherwell manager said a very strange thing; he said he attended an SFA seminar where he was actually told that those weren’t always penalties. That was the basis of his complaint yesterday.
Barry Robson said exactly the same thing today. Exactly the same thing. So that seminar took place. There is no doubt that they were told that, and it comes as no surprise to those of us who said we honestly couldn’t remember the last time they saw a penalty awarded in those circumstances. We’ve all seen shirt pulling in the box without it happening; Robson said he saw an incident involving Goldson right after the penalty where it went unanswered.
The only reason why you’d put a cop on someone tail for 500 miles is if you want to catch that person out and you know that given enough time on the road you will. That’s how VAR works here. In the same way not every 50/50 where you don’t win the ball is a red card, not every handball nor jersey pull is a penalty; two managers have confirmed that this very weekend … but every one of those against Ibrox will be given as a penalty and we know it.
Because that’s what the cop is there for. To penalise every infringement.
And its not even the number they get which is the giveaway, its that ever growing number of games that passes where the interpretation in their favour is grossly different to how the rulebook is wielded like a broadsword against anyone they play.
It took a long time for Walsh to give that yesterday. A long time. I can easily imagine him standing there telling the VAR room “I’ve made the decision, this is going to look suspect if we award this now” only for someone on the other end to remind him that the Ibrox club is a goal down, with a minute to go, and Celtic are about to extend their lead after dropping points and so looking stupid or even bent is a lesser consideration.
As I said yesterday, nobody at the SFA is all that bothered how ridiculous or corrupt they look; these people have passed the shame threshold, they will give these decisions every week as long as Ibrox needs a hand, and they will not worry about looking bad.
At the end of the day, who is going to hold them to account? The media? That’s hilarious. If not the clubs then nobody, and it was good to see Barry Robson venting his anger yesterday and as he said, he held a lot back because he knows the consequences of doing otherwise. The consequences are part of the problem; this protective shield around officials is there explicitly to prevent people like Robson, on the end of these decisions, from even stating the obvious.
And it is now obvious, and embarrassingly so. The more managers start speaking out about it in clear, unequivocal terms the better. These people won’t be shamed … but they don’t like proper scrutiny either and if the clubs start saying enough is enough, and if managers start calling this crap out, then the media has no choice but to cover it and the pressure is on.
Robson was right yesterday. It’s not a good look. In fact it’s dreadful, and something’s got to give.