Formula 1 is governed by a bewildering set of ‘technical’ rules and regulations which quite frankly would be a waste of brain power trying to understand. Apparently, it’s a Sport where inferior cars trying to overtake a guy in this year’s fastest car. But it’s occasionally entertaining and this weekend, Christian Horner, Mr Nice Guy of Red Bull, lost the plot in one post- race interview where ‘shit’ refereeing (Race Stewards) got blamed for robbing young Max Verstappen of a podium finish after slicing through the field from the back of the grid. Voted driver of the day, Verstappen pulled off a series of daredevil overtaking manoeuvres only to pick up 4 penalty points for his wheels going over a white line, something repeated on numerous occasions throughout the race by other drivers but unpunished.
The difference in F1 of course is that they have a mechanism in place where teams/stewards meet and discuss the rules and often review these types of decisions, so there is a degree of ‘transparency’, which is known in Scotland as raking over old coals. Interestingly Christian not only pointed out that it cost Max Championship points, the Team Manufacturer’s trophy points but also robbed the fans of his success.
It’s the last bit that sticks in the craw of all football fans, when discussing poor refereeing in Scottish football. Sure, the club suffers, and the effects can be dramatic if you are a smaller club on the rough end of poor decisions, but the fans also suffer, and this often gets overlooked. The SFA experimented with an array of incompetents in the 2015 Scottish Cup Semi-Final and the Josh Meekings handball is now the stuff of legend. It set the benchmark, with all four officials deployed missing a blatant Celtic penalty on the stroke of half time. That decision changed the course of the game and Scottish football history (and probably cost Ronnie his job). It also left Celtic fans seething with rage and pundits everywhere scratching their heads.
The SFA of course have stuck with the two blind refs rule, where referee and linesman act in unison. “it’s always better only two officials miss an important/game changing incident as four would just be silly” said an SFA spokesman. It’s no surprise that anyone who has ever played the game, would not want to be a referee. I played Amateur Football for 20 years and refs were subject to verbal and physical abuse, and were generally laughed at by the players. Refs these days get paid well and looking through the ranks of the SFA’s finest you have a mix of professionals, from Accountants to Politicians but no one who has played and understands the game. They have all the attributes you would expect; a Napoleon complex and membership of the local lodge. But modern football is complex and if referees don’t understand the nuances of ‘professional fouls’, plain cheating and simulation then correct decisions are always going to be thin on the ground.
Our Media channels are awash with ex-pros who rather than lend their expertise to match officiating will blether on the radio or telly to pay off their EBT’s and tell us their expert opinion. On Clyde SSB BFDJ excelled himself this week. Celtic’s Cup semi with Hibs had one high profile wrong decision. Despite the Ref/Linesman seeking our Manager and player in the Celtic dressing room after the match to apologise for wrongly awarding Hibs a penalty that penalised a Boyata (fair) tackle DJ was still on air insisting it was a penalty. That takes guts, or just a level of pig headed stupidity that we have come to expect from the one-time Oldco player.
This isn’t just about Celtic, there are lots of teams in the league with their own issues with SFA referees. Where do you draw the line between ‘honest mistakes’ and incompetence, and if it’s the latter how do we fix it for the good of the game. Sadly, when it comes to Celtic there are darker forces at play; the fact that Andrew Dallas was fast tracked into a job that pays him upwards of £600.00 a game just because his dad had been a high-ranking anti-Catholic bigot at the SFA doesn’t reflect well on our governing body, but sadly there’s more where he came from. If anyone’s in any doubt about the reach of the cabal of ‘honest mistakers’ they just need to read/watch Paul Larkin’s excellent “The Asterix Years”. But you can always win by being better, and Jock Stein would never let officialdom get in the way of exciting, entertaining football.
The other semi-final on Sunday of course was one more nail in the coffin for Pedro, and given his fondness for Vampires that is somehow quite apposite. The fifth best Manager in Qatar has baffled everyone since he came to Scottish football and his appointment seems like the desperate act of a desperate Board. I’ve long said that Oldco/Rangers (IL) will one day be a compulsory Module/Case Study on all MBA Programmes. Since David Murray crashed the bus in 2012 and handed everyone else the controls in a sleight of hand straight out of “Cool Hand Luke” fans and pundits alike have been left with a Smorgasbord of issues to unravel. We’ve had everything from secretive ‘five-way agreements’ to the mysterious Charlotte Fakes material, the latter hacked, sold, ringfenced by Courts for years and now seemingly free of repercussions for King and anyone else. Pedro rode into town with his pal Pedro Mendes and a gaggle of Portuguese/Mexican Catholics, who apparently play football for a living. That they are not very good has not been lost on the fans of the Govan club and their religion is just about to be used as a stick to beat them with.
Phil’s excellent “Downfall” will be the prescribed textbook on the MBA, but not before “Downfall 2” which is surely getting closer by the day. If Pedro gets ‘resigned’ then Dave King will have to come up with another wheeze to avoid paying compensation. And of course, what do you do with the detritus. The new RRM Management Team will no doubt include Kenny, Fergie and Elbows in some capacity, but as English is not the first language of the dressing room, they will need Marcel Marceau for all practice sessions and pre-match briefings. At least Marcel will be able to borrow BFDJ’s Clown shoes as he doesn’t need them in the SSB studios.