The Celtic Penalty Kick Furore Is Another Example Of How Ibrox Looms Over Hampden.

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Neutrals looking in at Scottish football this week will be tempted to think that the game has gone mad and that we’re on the brink of uncovering a major scandal. In fact, we’re not. The scandal has been readily apparent for a long time.

What we’re seeing is cause and effect. Ibrox’s shadow looms over Hampden and it is that which has brought us here.

Last week, I wrote about how Celtic has evolved in the orbit of a corrupt association. There are some who will tell you that the last 48 hours have demolished that claim; in fact, I rather think that the last 48 hours have proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. It is that corruption, wafting out of the place, which has brought us to this sorry pass.

One of the incidents which has stood out in recent years – and stood out a mile – is when the head of referees went on the radio to explain why a decision had gone the way of Celtic against Hearts. It is one of the only times he has deigned to put himself in front of the media. He did it because he felt he had to. There was pressure on him.

It was the SFA responding to the very idea that they might have done something to our benefit. The thought was so toxic in their eyes that they had to get in front of it.

We all know what Ibrox’s record of not conceding spot kicks is.

We’ve seen the incredible reaction out of that place every time a major decision goes against them. It is remarkable how often the SFA and the media dances to their tune when they have complaints and grievances.

The governing bodies have shown themselves to be gutless when dealing with Ibrox; why? Could it be because of pressure from inside Hampden’s own walls?

My article of last week talked about how a corrupt culture can develop at an organisation, and it happens when everyone inside knows what’s expected of them and harshly moves against anyone who isn’t toeing the line. Did Collum make a mistake at the weekend? I don’t think so, because I don’t think it’s a penalty.

But you can see what the volcanic reaction to it has been not only from Ibrox but its media lackies as well … the very people who have been telling us that refs can be trusted are now casting the gravest doubt on one of them.

And I can’t help but think that it’s because he’s gone against the orthodoxy. He’s gone against all the SFA behavioural norms. He has given a critical decision against them in a crucial match and that simply isn’t supposed to happen.

The decision itself, I’ve seen people argue it from both sides and those on my side of the line are the most sober and sensible.

Some of those on the other side are biased. Others are mistaken. But there are others too who know that the safe side to come down in this debate is on the side of Ibrox.

They don’t want inboxes full of bile. They don’t want the criticism. They are people just doing a job. They don’t care about right and wrong, only about what gets them through each day with the bare minimum of fuss.

I would stipulate that if you’re a professional pundit and that’s your attitude that you should be in a different line of work, but I know that a lot of these people do feel that way and it is easier for them just to go along to get along.

No decision that has gone in favour of Ibrox this season, no matter how absurd, has triggered such a wave of fury amongst the media.

Other clubs, and people like Barry Robson, must be incredulous at the venom being spat at Hampden and the not-so-veiled allegations which are being treated seriously, and which no-one would entertain if they came from them. They have had to endure far worse without the Scottish press corps ever going to bat on their behalf.

We are inundated here with bad decisions every single week in our game. Every week. Some of them are vastly more controversial than this was. The only thing that makes this different is the club it has gone against, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen them use these tactics to deflect after a defeat in a big match against us.

The media willingly backs them up on every occasion. If Celtic acted in the way they have we’d be getting pummelled from all sides.

Every club in this country bar the one at Ibrox can smell stink all over this. Ibrox pretends that it does. They know what happened here as well as I do, and you will not get a clearer example of their perfect cynicism than this.

Their directors were at Celtic Park. They know that VAR checked the incident at the time and that it was settled. They might have disagreed with it, but it was settled, and they know too that there is nothing on those VAR tapes.

They know that because Sky and the other broadcasters have already heard what is on them and know there’s no story here except for another decision which some will defend and others won’t. But there’s no conspiracy.

Nobody was told lies. And they know something else; there was no “cover up” either, or at least not in the way they want their fans to believe.

It took me a day to figure out the sequence of events, and it seems so obvious to me now that I wonder why it didn’t dawn on me sooner.

But I had a beer or two after the game, and then it was Hogmanay and I took the day off … so maybe that’s a partial excuse. But by the time the Bells rang out I had satisfied myself that the VAR offside story makes perfect sense when you put it in the proper context, and that’s where I want to place it now.

I think Collum and his assistant were spooked.

Perhaps by the reactions of people around them at half time. Perhaps by the boiling anger radiating out at them from everyone in an Ibrox strip.

Maybe Walsh himself wanted it clarified; whatever happened, these guys know full well that what they did had gone against the cultural expectations and if the idea that they needed to deflect some of the criticism didn’t come from them I am sure someone in the hierarchy would have suggested it to them as a way of calming down the Ibrox fury.

Because of course, if it’s an offside who is going to continue talking about the decision?

So what we saw was the result of panic and anger … the panic of people within Hampden who knew they would all be eating dirt from the media and the Ibrox club over the call, and anger from those who felt that the decision had broken their unspoken covenant that these things do not happen to their team.

Those who panicked thought that in demonstrating that no penalty would have been given because of the offside released that to the broadcasters.

What we’ve seen here is a classic example of the SFA trying to placate Ibrox and them not being satisfied with the inch but wanting to take the mile. We’ve seen the cultural rot at Hampden, and in our media, exposed at its very worst.

No other decision this season in Scotland has warranted a secondary explanation; what makes this so special? The club it was given against.

Ibrox fans think that proves that there’s something dodgy going on, and there is … but as usual they can’t see the woods for the trees. The offside excuse is not designed to fool them. It was meant to appease them.

It was a reassurance no other club would have been deemed worthy of.

And of course, those who tried that tactic have demonstrated again how utterly futile appeasing Ibrox is. That club would rather stoke hatred than promote reasoned debate, and they see appeasement as weakness and have manufactured yet another crisis so they can pursue the goal of removing from Hampden a small number of people whose backgrounds they regard as suspect and compromised.

They are seizing on this incident in the hope that they can use it to cast enough doubt on Collum that they can remove him from the rotation.

Hey, I have no love for the guy. I will shed no tears for him.

But the deep dishonesty of the path Ibrox and its allies are pursuing here is obvious to me and should be obvious to others.

The decision was clear.

Agree or disagree with it, there was no ambiguity about it.

They even put it up on the big board at Celtic Park for everyone to see. Had there been some underlying conspiracy or whatever, the broadcasters would know it already because they have access to the raw audio and they know what was said and what wasn’t.

The “confusion” comes from the offside clarification, but it’s only confusing because some people want to ascribe a dark motive to it and others are jumping to conclusions about why it was offered in the first place. But the answer is staring them in the face.

The Ibrox club was already in meltdown over it. The media was freaking out. The pressure that was going to be brought to bear on them was already enormous.

The offside presented them with a way to take the heat out of the story, but they didn’t reckon on Ibrox cynically using it to sew further doubts.

I have accused the Ibrox board of being stupid at times, but let’s not kid on that these people don’t know their audience or that they have willing accomplices in the newsrooms of Scotland for whatever lunatic story they want to promote on any given day. They know exactly what they are doing here.

This whole thing about the SFA refusing to make the audio available to them, when in fact all the SFA have done is schedule a meeting later than they’d like is a sterling example; the media is running headlines about the SFA being obstructive when, in fact, yesterday was 1 January and today there’s a full SPFL card of games.

So when was this hearing meant to take place? Does the media care about the obvious scheduling issue? Of course, they don’t, because the newsrooms are as filled with Ibrox’s dogsbodies as the corridors of Hampden are.

The culture inside those walls makes it impossible for those at the top to confront Ibrox openly on their tactics and some of them doubtless feel that the explosion of foot stamping and moon howling will serve a function anyhow in that it will remind people of what they are expected to do and how they are expected to behave.

If you want a working analogy, here’s a good one.

In American Gangster, Russell Crowe finds himself frozen out in the police force because he finds a bag of dirty money and turns it in.

He doesn’t inform on fellow cops, he doesn’t bust people who are protected by his colleagues and put them in a bad position, he just turns in a bag of cash rather than keep it for himself.

And this sends shockwaves through his precinct because it would never even dawn on any of them to do such a thing and it suggests that none of them can trust him with whatever they’ve got going on. Note that it does nobody any specific harm. It just goes against the culture and for that reason he finds that nobody will partner with him except for a junked-up lunatic who keeps dangerous secrets from him and as a result almost gets him killed.

Willie Collum is going to find himself in a very lonely place over the next few weeks, and that lesson will not be lost on him or anyone else amongst the refereeing fraternity.

It won’t matter to his colleagues what his motivations were, he has committed a cardinal sin. He has violated the code.

He has betrayed the institutional understanding. His actions have threatened to subject them all to a harsh light, and pissed off the Peepul.

Nobody – not at Hampden, not at Ibrox and not in the newsrooms – can allow that to stand. They will make an example of him, slap him around a little, and everyone else will get the message loud and clear.

That’s how it works, and we forget that at our peril.

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  • brian cavanagh says:

    Hi James

    Great to see you stand up for journalistic principles and ethics – too bad few within the traditional press do now -they are more like press officers -sending out the organisation’s position. If they want to do that for a quiet life then fine -dont call yourself a journalist – in another context it was said that for evil to prevail – good men must do nothing. Now I don;t know if they are goood men or not, but ty their inaction they are allowing corrupt practices to operate under their own eyes -and if that is their attitude -which is not life and death. For more serious issues will these so called journalists turn a blind eye?

  • Davie says:

    Never forget Jim Farry, that mindset is still with The SFA and and many associated officials.
    The guys who love the long walk during July.
    They keep banging the big drums to be heard louder than any other team.
    I will ask if there is no corruption, why was a New team initially called SEVCO, now The Rangers, granted a place in the league, before teams from the Highland league and other similar leagues were promited, that’s per the rules, so why did a new team leapfrog the first contenders.
    Tell me there is no corruption.
    The Rangers don’t see that, they think they are hard done by.
    Ask all the teams in Scottish football what they have to endure during matches, I am sure they feel that Celtic & The Rangers are favoured.
    So my message to The Rangers is, grow up, get over yourselves.
    Rangers are gone leaving a team of impersonators at ibrox.
    That was done by David Murray and Craig White.
    If you want to be Rangers then come out of Liquidation and repay the millions upon millions of debt.
    Self inflicted demise was not every other teams fault.
    The Rangers have been strongly favoured by The SFA and SPFL with place jumping in the league, that is corruption.

  • James Garrity says:

    A poem, Denmark, by Humbert Wolfe contains the verse:

    “You cannot hope to bribe or twist,/ thank God! the British journalist./ But, seeing what the man will do/ unbribed, there’s no occasion to.”

    It makes me wonder what he’d have said about referees in Scotland.

  • David Joyce says:

    This is one of those articles you write which goes straight to the heart of the matter,brilliantly exposing the motivations and causes in that specific situation.I hope your circulation is as good as your articles are incisive because it would be such a waste if oit is not.

    Please keep up your excellent work in exposing that which the bluenosed newsrooms never would.

  • John S says:

    How many times does the Ibrox outfit need to bring the game into disrepute before appropriate action is taken ?

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