The Notts Forest Case Is Another One Non-Celtic Fans Don’t Want To Talk About.

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Back in the late Roman Republic, Julius Caesar won election to the post of Pontifex Maximus; basically, the head of the state religion. It was a job for life, and elevated him from his role as a clever senator to the status of being a major player. It was in this role that he was caught up in the Bona Dei affair, when another Roman nobleman, Clodius Pulcher, dressed as a woman and invaded a meeting of the Vestal Virgins, hosted by Caesar’s wife Pompeia.

When Caesar was publicly asked about the growing scandal he divorced his wife on the spot, stunning the onlookers, including Cicero, who wrote of it afterwards. When questioned on the reasons why he would do so if neither he or she had anything to hide, he uttered the famous words, “Because Caeser’s wife must be above suspicion.”

In Scottish football, we would call that “sporting integrity.”

Yesterday, we learned that we are going to have John Beaton refereeing us again at the weekend. It’s beyond belief. You could not have made that up. This is Scottish football, where the SFA seems determined to teach us a lesson because we’ve questioned their decision making. All you can do faced with their behaviour is question their decision making.

As this was happening, I was sent a clip of an MP called Toby Perkins, standing up in the House of Commons and making a statement on the football regulations south of the border and the need for robust club ownership and continued vigilance on financial fair play. He invoked two clubs who had spent more than they earned, to their detriment; Derby County and Rangers. We know that one of those clubs did not survive that experience.

They have their act together down there. They have systems in place which allow for clubs to get answers to key questions. They are introducing stronger rules all the time, and a guarantee for the fans, which protects the heritage of clubs, which essentially belongs to the fans and should be given real safeguards. The SFA doesn’t give a toss about that stuff.

As everyone is aware, they have actually made it easier for people to get their claws into our teams, even people who already own clubs in England. One of the reasons these new regulations are being brought in is that even with their governing bodies being determined on FFP that ownership rules need tightened up good and proper … and as they are strengthening theirs, we are making ours weaker in direction proportion to that.

But as everyone knows, where they are miles ahead of it is on officiating. They make their referees and officials declare their allegiances. VAR is run by a private company, although it is under the aegis of the FA itself, but this still means that they clubs can demand independent review and officials are graded and given real scrutiny.

And it hasn’t been perfect … Professional Game Match Officials Ltd has been the subject of much controversy all season long. But it is accountable and it is held to account, which is why there will certainly be repercussions from the weekend’s latest one.

Notts Forest have demanded the VAR records from their game against Everton at the weekend, in which there were three key penalty decisions which they felt merited intervention and none of which were properly considered by the video replay guys. Two were fouls and the other was a handball. Everton went on to win the game 2-0.

Forest’s complaint revolves around the loyalties of the VAR official Stuart Attwell. Forest claim to have raised concerns about him before the game even kicked off; he is a Luton fan, and they are Forest’s relegation battle rivals. Their contention is that no such person should ever have been in a position to influence one of their matches.

The FA is not happy about this. But Forest believes that they have a case. They have highlighted the fact that PGMOL officials have to declare their allegiances already, to prevent clubs from being managed by supporters of their local rivals, and that’s how this came to light. But they also want there to be new regulations on “contextual rivalries” and that’s a more complicated issue but one they and others believe to be serious enough for a debate.

“This is currently not within the criteria but should be,” their statement says. “Mere reliance on match officials to recuse themselves if contextual rivalries exist invites conjecture, as some have recused themselves where others have not.”

The FA knows this is a problem. They know it’s a problem because, as Forest’s statement makes clear, they already have a system which encourages self-regulation. Which is a noble effort, but something that fundamentally doesn’t work because, of course “some have recused themselves where others have not.” So, Forest’s argument is more than reasonable.

The FA has to be aware of that, and what’s happened here has opened a can of worms down there and will put the authorities under real pressure to formalise their approach to “contextual rivalries” and the potential issues which arise from them. Forest have not made their anger public for nothing; they know they are risking an FA sanction for it but they want to bring into the public sphere this gaping hole in the rules. They think the debate is important.

No-one up here wants such a debate. It’s ridiculous. The media pretends that referees having clear preferences is just one of those things, and that there’s nothing we can do about it. There is a real problem in Scottish football and it is not the bias issue itself, it’s the absolute refusal on the part of some people, and the media, to acknowledge that bias might even exist far less that it might be having an influence on the fixtures.

But we’re creating an atmosphere here in which anything goes.

If a ref is corrupt, he can basically go about his business without fear. In the meantime, other officials who may be entirely innocent, are targeted for criticism and have their decisions shrouded on doubt because some surmise that they have something to hide … not only do the clubs and the fans not have the security of knowing we’re watching a straight game but the officials themselves do not have the ability to put their own integrity beyond reproach.

“Caeser’s wife must be above suspicion,” the dictator said when the Pulcher affair threatened to cast a shadow over his own standing. Doesn’t our game deserve the same? Shouldn’t our officials be above suspicion, and shouldn’t we be able to say that they are? Instead, John Beaton will get another high-profile game involving our club, and another chance to influence this title race when in England he wouldn’t get near any fixture involving us.

Why are some people up here pretending that this is okay? The Forest affair was another opportunity for our media to have a full and proper discussion about this matter but once again it’s the silence, not the sound of the debate, which is deafening.

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  • john mc guire says:

    Whats the chances beaton / dallas for our home game against the klan at Celtic-park and them to do the treble at hampden the same combo would you be shocked James because i wont .the games rigged .

  • Stevie Bhoy says:

    Shower of cheatin masonuc hun bastards the lot of them. Otherwise, why the secrecy?

  • Frank Connelly says:

    A think the issue with your argument James is that once refs and linesmen declare there “favourate team” we would struggle to have enough independent officials to referee our games the bulk of them having a strong leaning?? towards Sevco and I stress I am not being flippant here.

    • Droopy McCool says:

      Doesn’t that just add to the argument that something needs to be done about it???

  • Jim M says:

    And collum is nowhere to be seen regarding sevco .

  • Captain Swing says:

    Hah! You’ll be getting as much hate mail from NOTTINGHAM Forest fans as Toby Perkins will get from huns for referring to them as ‘Notts Forest’! They HATE that, it’s like calling us ‘half of the Old Firm’! Their local rivals are ‘Notts County’.

  • Bhoy4life says:

    Why is the obvious bigoted and racist reason Sevco dont want Clancy or Collum near their games being discussed in the media?
    Walsh and others have awarded pens and other dubious calls against them, but they haven’t been banned?
    So its ok for Sevco supporting prodestant refs to do our games but no catholics allowed to ref theirs as they presume they are compromised?
    This should be front page news.
    Thw fact the spl buy into it is even more scandalous.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Another example that makes ye turn and ask ‘wtf are our board doin up there, apart from rakin in cash’ ? There’s nae doubt our team (hopefully without any injury blows) are definitely capable of gettin this league now and the cup along with it. That’s if we’re given a fair chance and ALL these remainin games are officiated fairly (tho ah know what ahm expectin, especially if we’re gettin results). Incredible when ye think, they could yet be decided by certain officials we just cannot trust tae be professional, or impartial. It’s a sad state of affairs and needs serious investigation, although should’ve happened long before this.

  • Patrick Gillen says:

    Dallas is the bigger problem

  • John Copeland says:

    Do you think that this very real subject shall be discussed on the Record theRangers Podcast any time soon ? Or more importantly , the Record Celtic Podcast for that matter …don’t hold your breath !

  • James Divers says:

    Funny how last 5 games away from Celtic Park have had. 3 for Robertson 2 for Beaton very strange

  • Effarr says:

    i have to laugh at the suggestion that referees should state which team they support. They
    are accused of being rogues, cheats and vagabonds and then trusted by their accusers to
    tell the truth when filling in a wee form with masonic symbols in its heading. Even if they all
    genuinely supported St Mirren, Motherwell, Dundee, Kilmarnock (especially Kilmarnock),
    they would all lean towards you-know-who FC. I have worked with people who supported all the above teams but all, to a man, supported the one (same) team when it came to the “OF”
    game and it certainly wasn`t Celtic.

    Surely, though, there must be plenty of Celtic fans who knew all these refs when they were
    growing up amongst them and knew who they supported. They must even have palled together. I certainly knew when I was even at primary school the teams all my friends
    supported and it was either Celtic, Rangers or Ayr United, with the Ayr fans always having a
    soft spot for another team in Glasgow. So I think we can forget about so-called allegiances
    and get back to the Jock Stein school of thought. Put the ball in the net every chance you
    get and that will overrule their masonic tactics.

  • Jimmy D says:

    They’re terrified that once the officials declare their allegiance, it will pour fuel on the fire of dodgy past decisions and show how biased the game has been, all along.

    It’s not the future they are worried about, it’s the re-evaluating of all their previous match decisions once they’ve declared their team allegiance.

    That and the obvious fact there is a disproportionate number of Sevco supporting refs in the top flight.

    • Effarr says:

      Jimmy D

      “Once they`ve declared their team allegiance”? There would be no problem then,
      since they will all be “declared” as Brechin, Queen of the South, Montrose and Buckie
      fans. Anyone who believes a bunch of rogues would tell the truth in anything associated with Scottish football is living in a fairy-tale land

      • Jimmy D says:

        I hear what you’re saying Effarr and I agree to an extent.
        The problem they have is that so much information on their backgrounds and football allegiances is already public domain. Social media is full of pics, or friends and family members tweets – like Dickinsons brother proudly tweeting he was referreing his first game at Ibrox and expecting 3 points etc.
        If he declares a different team, he would be exposed within days by social media users/anyone who knew him growing up.
        If they tell the truth, the headline could be ‘7 top flight referees support Rangers’.
        If they don’t it will be ‘7 top flight referees lie about supporting referees’.
        The first makes them uncomfortable, the second makes them unemployable.

        If it was so easy for them to just lie about what team they support and move on, they’d have done it by now.

  • Sid says:

    Declaring allegiances is a start but doesn’t go far enough. Scotland should be joining other smaller nations who have the same issue of match officials having a vested interest like the Scandinavians and pooling referee’s and having a Var centre of excellence. The problem is not VAR its the officials operating VAR and the SFA. Whilst it stays in the SFA hands the problem will persist.

  • Roonsa says:

    The media up here will never do any proper reporting or investigative journalism if the resulting story could be construed as, in any way, negative towards the Liebrox club. We all know that to be true. When the Rangers tax case guy was , basically, putting himself at risk of some pretty brutal retribution, the main stream media in Scotland carried on regardless. Apparently unaware. Those bastards had to be dragged kicking and screaming to that particular party.

    You’re the last person I need to remind of that, James.

    So why in the name of the wee man do you think they’ll care about the standard of refereeing in this country?

    As per what Forest did the other day, it is Celtic we should be counting on to hold the authorities to task. Not our bloody awful so-called sports journalists.

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