BBC Journalist Opens Up The Big Debate At Last In An Article Accusing Refs Of Bias.

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Richard Gordon of the BBC has written an article for The Press & Journal which some are going to term an extraordinary piece.

Graham Spiers is already branding it as such, and wondering, if I’m understanding him right, if Gordon’s integrity is compromised by the central claim; that our officials have a clear bias in favour of Ibrox.

Only in Scotland could such a claim be branded controversial.

Everywhere else, they would see it as nothing but common sense.

Gordon does not speculate for the sake of it. He raises the issue we’ve all been talking about for ages; the incredible number of games which the Ibrox club has gone without conceding a spot-kick in the SPFL.

That run is now at 68 games. Sixty-eight.

They are eight games shy of two full campaigns.

Think about that, and then ask yourself why it is considered controversial to examine that run and conclude that it is more than just a weird historical quirk. In the last four seasons, they have conceded less penalty kicks than Phillipe Clement has been awarded in this competition since he became boss over there. And Gordon doesn’t even stop there in his analysis.

He has done what nobody else has done in that time.

He has tried to view this through the prism of Celtic and the Ibrox club being the best two sides in the country, the two most attacking teams, and factored in how seldom teams have a go at them these days. And in spite of us scoring more goals and being the best attacking team in the country we’ve been awarded less spot kicks than Ibrox … but it’s close, at 26-23 over the period examined.

It’s the closeness of that stat which makes the next number all the more extraordinary; we have had ten penalty kicks awarded against us to their three.

That’s where the stat about how it’s 68 games without one jumps out at you and scream in your face.

Two of those three penalties were awarded in games against Ross County and Dundee in consecutive months in 2021.

After Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson scored against them from the spot in January 2022 they raised 99 kinds of Hell about the decision, the ref didn’t get one of their games for ages and we were off to the races on this particular run. It’s as if officials were given a warning about what happens if decisions go against them and you know what? If so, that lesson was certainly learned.

“They have now played a staggering 68 matches without conceding one in the Premiership,” Gordon writes. “In that time, it would appear not a single (Ibrox) player has committed a foul in their own 18-yard-box. Not once has a referee deemed a challenge illegal; not once, since its introduction in October 2022, has a VAR official highlighted anything of note while the Ibrox side has been defending its area. It would hardly be a stretch to suggest there is bias there. I am not suggesting it is intentional bias, that the referees are deliberately ignoring incidents, but for whatever reason, it clearly exists. How else, unless (their) defenders are somehow infinitely more disciplined than all their opponents, can that remarkable statistic be explained?”

That is good journalism. That is the job.

I realise that it might be difficult for some in the profession, who have spent years not doing it, to recognise it when they see it, but that’s what this is.

If you are covering sport in Scotland and you are not asking this question, you’re in the wrong gig.

It’s screamingly obvious that something doesn’t add up here; read again that section on VAR.

We’ve had VAR for more than a year. You tell me how it’s possible that their officials have not spotted even one incident which merits awarding a penalty against that club in the league since its introduction. We all know there are plenty they could have highlighted.

Barry Robson said it best “It’s not a good look, is it?” and Gordon opened his piece with that quote.

He realises that this isn’t normal, that something about it stinks and thank God for someone in his role who has the guts just to say what many others have to be thinking.

He can’t be alone. In fact, he’s not alone. Andrew Smith of The Scotsman was highlighting this trend when they were only 40 games in, and he must be aghast to see it reach this place.

But these are lone voices in the wilderness, and it is high time they weren’t.

The debate is wide open now.

Spiers is a good guy, I think, one of the people in our media who I firmly believe those who crave real reform could count on as an ally. He has a podcast where he is not afraid to discuss and debate controversial issues, so let’s have this one.

Hell, I’ll go on it and put my money where my mouth is, as it were.

I know the general perception of the bloggers is that we are conspiracy theorists and lunatics; I believe that over the last few years this blog and others have made a number of cogent points and raised legitimate concerns about officiating in Scotland, but we’re pissing in the wind without those in the mainstream getting into it, and so many of them point blank refuse to.

Almost all of them in fact.

As I said at the start, only in Scotland would it be considered extraordinary for a mainstream journalist to want to discuss officiating in this manner, and to draw attention to a major issue within the sport.

But the mainstream media has spent so long pretending not that this stuff isn’t happening but actually that it could not be happening that you actually do a double-take when one of them brings in up.

That has got to change.

There are some in the press who are not afraid to discuss the big issues. Gordon and Smith have led from the front. It’s up to the rest of them now to decide if they’re going to follow.

You can be part of the solution … or part of the problem. Pretending there isn’t one … well, as far as I’m concerned that’s a choice like any other, and by that choice they’ll be judged.

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  • Captain Swing says:

    I’m not envisaging the Jacksons, the Keowns and the Leckies boldly following them to call it out somehow…. succulent rules will continue to apply. You might however find that Sevco now have a couple of penalties awarded against them over the next few weeks, either unimportant ones where they are already ahead, or against us, particularly if they have lost more ground in the league, because the poers that be are twisted enough to operate like that. “How can you claim that we are biased against Celtic and never award penalties against Sevco? Celtic just got a penalty against Sevco!” Then the debate gets shelved again in a dusty warehouse like The Ark of The Covenant at the end of Raiders of The Lost Ark……

  • brian cavanagh says:

    Good piece James, and good to see you give credit where credit is due – we need more good journalism -that is based on fact checking/investigation and evidence – in both mainstream and other forms. It is the professionalism that determines it not the quality of the piece, not the platform.

    Much of what is written about soccer in Scotland is gossip, with a dollop of biased opinion through in for good measure. Some of these people are so biased that even Pravda wouldn’t have employed them! Perhaps there needs to a campaign by people like yourself and Michael Stewart to fight for journalistic ethics and standards.

  • Roonsa says:

    …. and the referee has been sent over to the monitor. Could this be the first penalty conceded by the Ibrox side in the SPFL since the 2021/22 campaign? It certainly looks clear-cut to me. The referee has looked at it and here comes his decision ….


  • Stewart says:

    It’s going to be hard for media, press, and comentators within the sphere of scottish football to talk about it, when every one to a man and woman have rolled out every accolite to defend what’s been going on, for one person to put his head above the parapit they have five to disagree,if you look beyond pens every week that team is being refereed different there break up of play is abismal especially the number of free kick and fouls for in opposition last 3rd of pitch,, I said it before their position in this league is being artifiacly dope to keep them up there,,

  • Gareth says:

    I don’t think it’s so much about Spiers branding the piece extraordinary, I’m more concerned about Spiers wondering “if Gordon’s integrity is compromised”? That’s what they do you see, they are so fearful to stick their necks above the parapet because these journalists know it will be turned around and it’s their own integrity that will be on the spotlight. I’ve met Graham Spiers a couple of times and felt that he was one of the more prominent truth seekers when it came to Rangers Downfall and he wasn’t afraid back then to call a spade a spade but he did face a bit of a backlash for it and he’s been neutered a little since. The 3 to 10 statistic doesn’t concern me greatly or stick out for me as much as the basic stat of 68 games (almost two seasons without conceding a penalty, on the back of an outcry from them relating to the Lewis Ferguson award) but I’d like to know how many claims their have been during that period. Some claims might have gone to VAR and been highlighted like the Goldson save etc, others might have been spotted and shared after the game on twitter x without getting noticed by the broadcaster etc or even discussed in the studio, let alone going to VAR but if there were let’s say 20 claims and zero went against them, compared to let’s say 20 claims against Celtic 10 of which were given, then thar would be pretty glaring too. The referees want the big games and to be seen on the television. Their egos are huge and they know that they’ll be struck down if they upset the establishment club.

  • Stevie Bhoy says:

    It’s the interesting that many people casually dismiss the penalty’s for as being very close therefore much the same.
    If you dig deep and look at the context of the games which these penalties are awarded it makes for shocking reading.
    How many penalties do we get to save points??
    How many penalties do we get late in the game??
    I said a while back VAR would be a disaster for Celtic and so it’s proved.

  • Leon says:

    Sevco have now went 70 league matches without conceding a penalty.

  • Charlie Green says:

    They don’t have the intelligence to award Celtic penalties when they are 4 up and the game is won.

    Sevco on the other hand could have penalties awarded against them when they are 4 up and they have the game in the bag.

    It would look a lot better for them in the statistics.

  • Michael McCartney says:

    It’s not a coincidence that the aforementioned Richard Gordon is an out and out Aberdeen supporter. It takes a Scottish sports journalist from outside the Central belt to call out the cheating that goes on in Scottish football.
    The Central belt journalists are one of two types , biased or cowardly, shame on them.

  • paul obrien says:

    They would have to be brave, fair minded and have the mortgage paid as employment will become hard to find.I won’t hold my breath

  • Johnno says:

    Is bias just another word for cheating?
    Scottish football has tried using the honest mistake to cover up the actual term of blatant cheating, so is bias the alternative word now, since the introduction of VAR?
    Until the actual right term is introduced properly, then everything else is just a smokescreen to try and cover up what Scottish football is all about and remains.
    The game overall, lost its credibility years ago with the farce from officials, and actually managed to grow, since the introduction of VAR?
    Stats within the game can be misleading, but some just can’t be ignored either?
    The term bias is only being used as a downgrade as favourable decisions been always awarded to the scum?
    The truth of the matter is its blatant cheating upon how the rules of the game are being applied, simple as that.
    Also the scum zombie expects the cheating decisions within every game now?
    And all the scum cheerleaders within the Scottish media justify the level of cheating within the Scottish game?
    So when you have such an overall package within the Scottish game, where does credibility have room to fit into the overall picture of the game?
    The cheating officials fit into the agenda very nicely for all concerned within the Scottish game?
    If this isn’t classed as corruption within sport of the highest degree, then I really don’t know what is any longer?
    The beauty of being a Celtic supporter is still being the best and most successful club within the Scottish game despite the level of cheating and corruption within the Scottish game.
    Still doesn’t make things right, but highlighting the issues with a stronger and more realistic terms, might be better in calling the issues within the game for what they really are imo?

  • Albert Kidd says:

    When talking about the penalties for, I think the circumstances when given would be really interesting and would further back up the bias.
    We all know the penalty will come in a game they are cruising, at least 2-3 goals up, in added time.

  • Dora says:

    Sure sevco can can even do basketball style handball in the box & still no pen!!

  • Hugh Mackie says:

    I think it is hard to accept that no Rangers Player has committed a jersey pull or shove or some type of foul in their penalty box during these 68 games, certainly VAR is their friend in this regard.
    Recently, every time Rangers get a corner VAR seem to look for anything that can be considered as a foul against a Rangers player, today against Dundee a perfect example, numerous penalties to Rangers this season from Corner Kicks.
    Another issue that needs to be considered is the timing of Rangers Penalties, how often do they get one when they are struggling to get a result.
    So it is not just the issue that they do not concede penalties, they are awarded more VAR penalties than any other team.

  • Pan says:

    The game in Scotland seems to be bent. VAR is now an ally in promoting this. It is an extraordinary situation and the figures are statistically discordant. It is simple to apply an appropriate statistical test to the results of penalty awards, as well as other awards, for different clubs. All the other clubs fall into the norm when you apply it, that is there is no significant difference from the norm with regard to penalty awards. However, there is not just a statistically significant different with the Ibrox club, it is a MASSIVELY significant difference from the norm.
    The rules seem to be applied differently to this club as opposed to all the rest. This happened after they complained to and threatened the governing bodies about a penalty decision just before their run started. Certain people were put in charge of VAR and others are watching what they do in case they are taken off the roster. This could only happen in a warped little country like Scotland where institutional bigotry reigns and supports an institution that is openly bigoted and always has been. Even Hugh Adams, one of their former directors, now deceased and a perfectly honourable man, stated this fact openly.
    Those referees who accept this situation are just as guilty as those who are in charge and promote it.

  • Peter Cassidy says:

    Is there any other team in the uk playing near 70 games not conceding a penàlty but we know what goes on when the rangers 2012 are playing corrupt Scottish officials has been going on for decades .

  • T.Bradley says:

    Fantastic Journalism. Well done.

  • Zeddy says:

    So it can really only be one of three things

    Bias, Illegal match fixing, Industrial Action by Refs

    All of which are being by the teams and the authorities while your money is being accepted.

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