Celtic And Other Clubs Should Be Watching Events In Turkey And So Should Hampden.

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Change is coming to Scottish football. It has to be. The revelations in Aberdeen’s statement this week are too severe to be ignored. The Beaton scandal and the SFA’s gutless decision to remove Willie Collum from the rotation when it comes to games involving the Ibrox club have crystalised the thinking across the sport about things that have been ignored too long.

Earlier on, I wrote about three words; believe, know and prove.

As strong as our indictments of the SFA as a whole are, our indictments of VAR are much, much stronger. I think you could take them to court and get a conviction.

We can prove that the VAR system has been misused; Aberdeen’s statement does that on its own. We can prove that we allow things in Scottish football officiating, in terms of refs having “conflicts of interest” which would not be allowed in other leagues, and which is not allowed in UEFA or FIFA matches. We know that there are “errors” made in relation to it every single week, and we know that there is a clear “pattern of assistance” for one club and that VAR is a big part of that.

VAR has not enhanced our game. It has made it worse. This has been a truly dreadful week for the reputation of our national sport. But a foreign association has, at least in terms of some of our officiating issues, given us a possible path to the future.

The Turkish FA has announced that it will have foreign officials for its key matches until the end of the season. This has come as chaos has engulfed the game over there, which was summed up last week in the bizarre spectacle of Fenerbahce fielding an under 21 team for the Turkish Super Cup and then walking off the pitch after the first minute, thus forfeiting the trophy and handing it to Galatasaray, their main rivals, in an expression of their disgust with the FA.

The reason for that disgust is, in part, a consequence of a game which took place last month when rival fans invaded the pitch and attacked their players; Fenerbahce had demanded that Trabzonspor be sanctioned for that and they haven’t been.

That has led to allegations that the Turkish FA are biased against their club, and they’ve threatened to leave the league until there are major changes at the top of the house. That is, in part, why the VAR decision has been made. It will not hold back the tide.

Fenerbahce are not the only club who think that the league body is biased. Other Turkish clubs believe that refs are biased. There was a refereeing scandal in 2011, in which the Fenerbahce chairman was jailed, although he was later released and the case against him dismissed as having had no foundation. Other clubs have protested against bad officiating; the notorious case involving a referee being assaulted by a club chairman who ran onto the pitch after a bad call reverberated around the world. Turkish football is in anarchy.

You try explaining to people over there the semantic difference between knowing, believing and proving. That ship sailed long ago. It doesn’t matter what these people can prove; they all believe that refs are corrupt, that the league itself is corrupt and thus all bets are off. No national association can properly govern when that view is widespread.

Scottish football has to be heading for a tipping point. We’ve certainly got all the conditions here for a full-scale detonation, and that is not scaremongering. It’s an obvious fact. VAR has unleashed the demons in a big, big way. The tenure of Crawford Allan has been catastrophic in terms of enhancing trust; at this point, with him on his way out, trust has collapsed.

I’ll tell you how you know we’re in the midst of a deep crisis here, even if the media doesn’t want to acknowledge it, even if some of the clubs would rather pretend it isn’t happening; both our club and the one at Ibrox are convinced that the Hampden leadership is biased against them. Both clubs. And this extends down into the fan-bases. Check the forums of either of our clubs and the fact of that is obvious. After a fashion it ceases to be important whether one team is wrong, both teams are wrong or both teams are right to a certain extent.

My own view on this is the same as yours; the SFA is institutionally biased against Celtic. We all know that there is ample evidence, both circumstantial and actual, to support such a claim.

Ibrox’s belief that the bias is directed at them clearly can’t be supported by evidence of any kind, but when I say that doesn’t matter, I mean it. All that matters is that people believe it, not just at that club but amongst their fans, and amongst people in the media who are constantly insinuating it. What you are left with here is that neither of the two biggest clubs in the country trusts Hampden at all, and the governing body appears not to realise how serious that is.

Now that other clubs are questioning officiating, now that VAR in particular and the officials behind it, are under the spotlight, with clubs making official statements condemning its use and demanding reforms to it, the temperature has never been higher. The SFA has chosen to bunker, and in fact their behaviour seems almost designed to incite confrontation.

Their decision to award Don Robertson the Livingston game just days before Rodgers went up in front of the beaks for calling him and Beaton incompetent was greeted with disbelief right across the sport, and even in the media.

The view that it was both arrogant and needlessly provocative was almost universal. That Beaton was given the Ibrox game was incomprehensible and virtually nobody in the media believed that was either a positive move or even particularly fair to Beaton himself or either of the clubs.

The problems with it were obvious; the SFA chose to do it anyway. It’s as if they want to push this matter to the limit. It’s as if they want a conflagration which swallows up the whole sport. They are going the right way about getting it.

Turkey is the warning about where we might be headed. The more trust is eroded, the more the SFA continues to act in such a high-handed and frankly ridiculous manner the less respect clubs will have for the leadership at Hampden or the processes they have in place. At some point, one club will reach a breaking point, and it might even be Celtic.

Such was the appalling behaviour our players and staff were subjected to at Ibrox last weekend that some people thought our players should have walked off the pitch and had the match suspended until the officials made an announcement demanding that fans cease throwing things at them. I have long thought players should do it when they hear racist chants about people being up to their knees in fenian blood or songs of that sort.

And it will happen. At some point a club will say “no more of this” and it will happen. That will take us even closer to where Turkey is right now; an anarchic state where clubs are forced to that sort of action because the SFA refuses to protect them or their players in a meaningful way. A lot of our fans think Celtic should take action along these lines. I daresay that there are people inside the club who would not take much convincing to go down that road.

It is a matter of time before officials are under even more pressure than they are now. Again, the SFA will blame clubs and fans for this, but the truth is that it’s the governing body itself which has created the conditions for the distrust to flourish. Giving Beaton that game last weekend shows either that they don’t recognise that or just don’t care about it.

But they should care. Celtic is not the only club who knows there are pro-Ibrox officials getting major games involving that club. Other clubs probably think there are pro-Celtic officials who regularly get games involving us. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the truth is, it only matters what people believe, and the longer it goes on the deeper the SFA digs the hole.

The crazy thing is that there are solutions, and they are easy solutions. Turkey is the warning about where we’re going, but they also presented one of those solutions to us this week, the one a lot of us have been talking about for a long time; bringing in foreign officials for major games. This idea draws hostility from all across the media, and I have never understood why. It is not officially supported by any club – not publicly – and I have never understood why.

Make refs declare their allegiances, in signed contracts of employment. If we can’t find sufficient numbers of neutral officials – and I accept that’s possible, considering what I know of the regions where many of our Grade One officials emerge from – get them from elsewhere. This is not an admission of defeat or a suggestion that our game is ungovernable or steeped in bias; quite the opposite. It is designed to eliminate that possibility.

It acknowledges the reality of Scottish football; that we are a small country dominated by two clubs. We all accept that reality at the start of every campaign, but refuse to accept that it might be a problem. That position is certainly no longer tenable. We would be doing refs a favour. We would be doing clubs a favour. We could restore trust with a move like this … and what’s more, almost every club in the country would probably support it if we did.

If our refs were brilliant at their jobs and the only concern was conflicts of interest, that might be an argument that rendered this worthy of further debate, but they aren’t.

The recent decision not to have SFA officials at the Euros proves it … we are a basket case country and the rest of the world of football is well aware of that fact.

There is no good reason not to do this.. I have not even heard anyone try to articulate one.

Our fans think certain officials are biased. Our club agrees. We know Ibrox has the same suspicion. So that’s the two largest clubs, and I do not believe that either of them would be able to object if officials from abroad were brought in for major games.

If some of the clubs disagree, it would be interesting to hear what their objections were. Other clubs have spent years banging on about “not getting decisions in Glasgow.” Foreign refs would be appealing to them, surely? Why would they not be?

The alternative to this is to allow the rot to continue to spread.

Trust is at an all-time low, but that phrase should not be misunderstood.

It is lower than it’s ever been, yes, but there is a long way before we reach bottom and Turkey and its incredible officiating crisis is but a mere another step along the way there. We should all take a moment to soberly consider that … and those at Hampden most of all.

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  • Jimmy says:

    For anyone thats not seen it its on you tube. Absolutely incredible stuff. Fenerbache players first of all attacking a fan before being given a doing by hundreds of Tabzonspor fans. Incredible stuff. It’s a completely different footballing planet there.

  • RefMartin says:

    I suppose it depends how you define “major games.” For me the obvious answer is that the SFA outsource to PGMOL, who in turn recruit Scottish refs and (after time, admittedly) use them down south etc. Professional refs, with allegiances known. The main issues will be games involving us or the zombies so these obviously get refs from elsewhere. Meantime VAR is centralised and no Scottish ref does VAR for a Scottish game. Can be used (if deemed competent) for efl games.

    We then have accountability and the option of shopping elsewhere if let down by standards etc. As we will be customers we will have some power. And it’s better for aspiring refs to be professional.

    Why the SFA resisted offers and continues to avoid any modernisation is the question. And I’m afraid none of the possible answers are good.

  • paul obrien says:

    Could it work to have a British refs association for top league games to avoid any bias.Beaton could get the Manchester derby and an English ref could do our derby’s

    • John smith says:

      Beaton would piss in his big boy pants doing the Manchester derby,,, completely out of his depth,,,,

    • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

      He would probably favour Manchester City as they play in blue – albeit a far nicer blue than the hideous one that Sevco play in !

  • Torky58 says:

    Referees should be allowed to explain controversial decisions as well James. We should be able to hear what’s being communicated between them and VAR like they do in the rugby, it’s not that difficult to do and would take away any form of impropriety or collusion on the part of the officials and this stuff isn’t rocket science it’s easy to implement.

  • Jim M says:

    I’m unsure of the costs involved but surely foreign ref’s is the answer, FIFA and UEFA use them consistently in their competition so no biased decisions are made.

    After the ref’s went on strike before in this league we had foreign ref’s in place so it is something possible as it’s already happened previously.

    The entire SFA is outdated and self indulgent, the choice of ref’s against us and sevco proves that without doubt,

    Collum has been nowhere near them apart from 4th official against us since their club went into meltdown demanding he never ref’s 1 of their games again.

    Considering after BR questions the ref’s abilities we immediately get said ref’s foisted on us , 1 before he’s even attended hampden for his hearing.

    Beatons actions against us at ibrokes was an insult to our intelligence in us believing he is unbiased nevermind the other evidence of irregularities we already know about due to your previous posts James.

  • Paul Mac says:

    In every league there are problems with referee allegiences … in Spain there was the case where Barcelona were accused of paying off a ref .. in Portugal both Benfica and Porto have been accused of attempting to bribe the ref … with the Porto case “Golden Whistle – Apito Dourado” where the phrase “fruta” was used to imply that Porto tried to buy off the refs with prostitutes. Benfica were accused of less exciting bribes … meals and tickets plus signed shirts for the pro Benfica refs. So why not expand the UEFA model to all European leagues .. and switch every week … 1 week German next Italian next Dutch etc … probably have 2 refs from each country per season so hardly chance for collusion. Together with explaining at the match what the VAR decision exactly is … they started trialing this here in Portugal a few weeks back.

  • DixieD says:

    Foreign refs for all Celtic and Rangers fixtures, not just derbies, would be a step in the right direction, but it’ll never happen. We’ve got a cheapskate version of VAR because of a lack of cash. Who’s going to pay the costs of professional refs travelling here for two to four games every week, including flights and hotel costs. Unless Celtic and Rangers are going to help with the cost of this it’ll never happen. And lets face, if therangers don’t win this league then they’re not voting for this anytime soon.

  • Adam Thomas says:

    We have missed the boat on many occasions to go after the sfa spfl but our board settled on not rocking the boat there are 6 clubs tabled a no confidence letter and amazingly we are not one of them ,why is that ?

  • Ecky Watson says:

    You got it right at the end, Hampden. We need to get rid off the lot of them as well, Referees Orange, and masonic. Who can say a Referee help us, the Edinburgh clubs say it. But just look at the Hearts game, and we all know why that happened. ipox team dropped points so we had to lose as well, the ref gives a yellow. VAR guy says send off, in what 9 or 11 minutes? Then yellow for diving, and VAR guy says penalty? We’ve all seen the dive, but the pictures aren’t enough to shut the idiots up?

  • Domnick Sullivan says:

    I totally agree with what’s been said why not bring in refs from abroad and do away with the conspiracy theories altogether it would make sense.

  • David Joyce says:

    Another top quality article that’s a pleasure to read.
    Gushing aside the SFA’s seemingly intransigent stance after Brendan’s disciplinary maybe as simple as Beaton/Robertson being the most experienced referee of the dark arts (patterns of assistance )whom they can trust to do Sevco a favour and ensure they receive maximum help towards that £70 million UCL bounty.However as you astutely point out that point like a few others cannot be proven and is purely speculation.

    Alan Morrison’s suggestion for refereeing provision in Scotland looks the most feasible insomuch as it should be a completely separate organization from the SFA and accountable to it’s customers: the SPFL.
    Their competency would be data dependent not to the SFA or solely to one suspiciously all powerful member of the surname clan but to the clubs ie the customers.

    Time for a large GB banner at Hampden Park letting the SFA know we demand wholesale referee reform,now,as their game is up.

  • Kendo88 says:

    Very good article. I have believed for a long time now that our club should be calling for English or foreign referees. The photo of Beaton in a rangers pub after he took charge of our game v them at ibrox in December 2018, when he should’ve sent off morelos, should not only have been the catalyst but the last straw. Here we are 5 seasons on… our club are enabling this farce, instead of demanding higher standards and necessary transparency. Hail Hail

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