Celtic And Others Should Be Watching Events In Turkey With Interest And Concern.

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Last Monday, at the end of a league game in Turkey, an official’s decision to award a late penalty kick sparked one of the most incredible scenes ever seen in a football ground.

The club on the end of the decision, Ankaragucu, had been in the lead. Rizespor, their opponents, scored the spot kick and snatched a 1-1 draw. And so the Ankaragucu president ran onto the pitch and punched the ref. When he was on the ground, others rained kicks at him.

The outcry was incredible. Football in Turkey was suspended as the sport, and the nation, tried to come to terms with what had happened. Government slammed it as completely unacceptable.

The shockwaves of it were still reverberating when the games at the weekend kicked off. In spite of a week of soul-searching, another incredible event took place.

During this weekend’s game between Istanbulspor and Trabzonspor, the officials gave a penalty kick to the away side, and the Istanbulspor president marched onto the pitch and over the pleas of some of his own players he ordered his team off the field and brought the match to an end. This has shaken the sport in Turkey to its foundations. They have a big problem.

Last week, in the aftermath of the Ankaragucu incident, but before this weekend, a Turkish sports journalist, writing for The Guardian, attempted to put these matters into some kind of perspective.

He blames the creation of a toxic culture against officials which has spread from sports writers to the stands to the top levels of clubs themselves, where many believe that their own clubs are victimised and others protected from on high. This, he says, is a cautionary tale for other leagues, but the writer clearly accepts that part of the problem is the lack of transparency about decision making and the introduction and implementation of VAR causing mayhem.

Here is a small segment of that article, so that you might grasp the scope of the trouble the game in Turkey is in. These are officials from their three biggest clubs.

“In October, Fenerbahce’s president, Ali Koc, said: “There have been very strange [refereeing] decisions over the last seven weeks; in almost every game there have been decisions that have affected the score.” He then named four referees as needing investigating for their poor officiating.

“The former Besiktas president Ahmet Nur Cebi said last month: “The referees have changed how they target us – they are running their operations against us through VAR.”

“Galatasaray released a “refereeing report” in April claiming: “The referees who make mistakes in games not involving us get punished, referees who make mistakes in games for Galatasaray get rewarded.”

The echoes of that can be heard around Scottish football, from boardrooms to fan forums. We know those conversations are taking place; on occasion the frustration creeps into the public domain. We’ve had managers make comments. We’ve had clubs release statements. Trust in officials is at its lowest point in years.

The only difference is that those incendiary comments are not yet being fully articulated by the people who run clubs here. But if certain trends continue, you can see circumstances where that could happen, and the threat of official sanctions won’t stop them.

The point about how VAR has been weaponised has been made on this blog, in the Warren Buffet analogy about a cop following a driver until he finds something to cite him for. Alan Morrison’s brilliant appearance on the Graham Spiers podcast made the point about how refs who “make mistakes” against Ibrox are punished. We all know that there are specific referees about whom serious doubts exist, and who shouldn’t be near certain games with certain clubs.

I cannot recommend enough the Graham Spiers podcast on which Alan Morrison and Brian Gilmour dissected this issue and Alan presented his data which demonstrated the clear pattern over the last two years. It is stunning. It cannot be denied, only ignored and that’s what some are determined to do in relation to it.

They would doubtless claim that events in Turkey show us the dark path our game could go down if “conspiracy theories” gain wide circulation, but in fact it’s clear that what’s happened in Turkey is that too many issues have been boiling away under the surface of the game for too long and that at some point recently it just exploded. Perhaps with the introduction of VAR or perhaps something else. But this didn’t come out of nowhere.

The writer of The Guardian piece claims that much of this is down to clubs looking to find scapegoats for their own failures.

At Fenerbahçe, the first club quoted, they haven’t won a title in a decade but their statement isn’t about some dark conspiracy against them; it’s about how poor officiating as a whole is across the league. They are alleging corruption, but not specifically directed against them, so the claim doesn’t stand up in their case.

Galatasaray are the current holders. They’ve won three titles in the last six. Besiktas last won theirs in 2021. You might read their comments as paranoia.

But perhaps not. We don’t follow events over there and have no frame of reference for what’s actually going on. The two club chairman who have been in the news this last two weeks aren’t at major clubs at all, and their explosions have clearly been simmering for a long time.

Here’s a little more from The Guardian piece.

“Meler is on Uefa’s elite list and has officiated at the highest level. Turkish referees have officiated Champions League finals and in the knockout stages of the World Cup and European Championship.”

So have officials from Scotland. And we know our officials are rank rotten.

“Referees have made mistakes and the lack of transparency in explaining controversial decisions and refusing to apologise for errors adds fuel to the fire.”

That’s Scotland to a T.

“At this stage trying to silence dissent against referees will only make things worse because trust in officiating has been completely eroded. VAR controversies have inflamed negative sentiment. And this rebellion against refereeing is growing, not just in Turkish football but in other national leagues.”

And we can ignore that here or we can do something about it.

Officiating in Scotland has problems specific to this country, but it’s not as if there aren’t solutions available. A “national refereeing service” which functions as a business and trains and hires out refs but has nothing to do with the SFA would be a critical part of such a system.

Let me tell you what the real problem here is, and I’ll write about it later on. The culture at the SFA is fundamentally suspect. It’s that culture which has fostered suspicion amongst Celtic fans, that and the history their organisation has against our club.

A lot of the distrust flows from how we feel about the culture at Hampden, and they’ve done everything wrong in regards to this. It’s their fault if we’re heading towards a Turkish style situation; they refuse to change, they refuse to reform, they get a buzz off the power of having this issue in their hands and they won’t willing let go of it.

Turkey is a warning alright, but it’s a warning against doing nothing when there are clear problems and clear concerns already and which are only growing.

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  • Dorragh ó Canchobhair says:

    I like my Turkiye football team, Ferananclospor, they are the Celtic of the Bosporus.

  • Jas says:

    The SFA/SPFL/media would just say that Celtic are winning most trophies under their watch, so they’d say there can’t be any anti Celtic bias.
    We know different, but there’s other actions other than giving penalties and chalking off goals that refs can action, like pulling back play when it penalises Celtic, giving every 50/50 to our opponents, slowing the game down giving free kicks for nothing or adding time on or not as and when it suits their agendas.
    I don’t see any SPFL club official ever going onto the park to remonstrate, but I fear this current climate of cheating to help one club in particular will pave the way for fans to decide they won’t be paying tickets for a rigged sport, they’ll be gone forever!!!!

  • Johnny Green says:

    I cannot see anything happening in Turkey having any bearing in what transpires here. The Scottish football hierarchy is a closed shop with no one willing to take them to task, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

  • mmccartney says:

    Football is rotten to the core, when an individual who was head of refereeing in Scotland is dismissed for sharing a paedophile joke online about the Pope, who was on a visit to Scotland at the time. He is then employed in Switzerland with UEFA in a senior position supervising and training referees. Recently he was helping to train referees in Turkey, that says it all.
    This individual should’ve never been near refereeing in Scotland never mind in Europe.
    I can only talk for what’s happening in Scotland where VAR has taken the cheating to a new level. It is no coincidence one of the two so called VAR specialist officials in Scotland is the son of the low life, who thinks jokes about paedophilia on the internet is funny, The calibre of the people running Scottish is so bad and they will never be removed because no one has the courage to call them out
    God, I sometimes wish I hadn’t grown up loving Celtic and football in general so much because there are people throughout the game these days taking ordinary football fans for mugs big time. Unfortunately some are even on our board.

    • Michael Collins says:

      “Unfortunately some are even on our board.” How very true, and there is one in particular. No prizes for guessing who it is.

  • Hans says:

    Refereeing should be contracted out to an independent contractor. Urgently.

    • Scouse bhoy says:

      A celtic physio was scarred for life by a bottle thrown from behind the dugout. Can you imagine the publicity this would have got in england not forgetting broken glass thrown on the pitch at half time
      Scotlands sevco media shame

  • Joe McLaughlin says:

    It would help if the refs were miked up as they are in Rugby and the reasons for their decisions are clear to everybody. In Football the referee gives a decision and at times spectators and commentators are left debating the reason.

  • Magua says:

    …and yet, officials at Celtic, remain stubbornly silent at the ongoing cheating. Too busy with their snouts in the trough, to notice anything untoward, I expect.

    Hail Hail.

  • Scouse bhoy says:

    A celtic physio was scarred for life by a bottle thrown from behind the dugout. Can you imagine the publicity this would have got in england not forgetting broken glass thrown on the pitch at half time
    Scotlands sevco media shame

  • Stephen says:

    Ask the Celtic board to comment penalty to Rangers there’s your problem right there.

  • Michael M says:

    At this stage I’d just love to see Peter Lawwell run onto the park and deck John Beaton.

  • Michael M says:

    James, not only do I have to Reject Cookies at every click, now my device is heating up up during the reading of even one article then crashing.

    It’s due to the adverts even though I’ve an Ad Blocker and it’s becoming impossible to come here with the machine overheating then crashing.

    If you can’t sort it you’ll lose readers as I’m on the verge now.

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