Last night at football’s New Douglas Park, Scottish officials once again made the headlines. A series of baffling decisions were made – yet there is no process to explain these errors to fans of the game.
Surely long overdue moves towards transparency in Scottish football must include referees being made accountable? The fans pour money into the game, yet are left in the dark much of the time.
Hamilton took the lead last night from a free kick. A player stood in front of the goalkeeper, clearly in an offside position, as the kick was taken. All players were static at the time and the linesman was in a good position, so it was an easy decision to make. The ball came towards the offside player who attempted to play the ball but missed. Play continued and a goal was scored.
The linesman didn’t call for an offside offence, instead signalling to award a goal. Now there are two possible explanations. He could have failed to see the Hamilton player, or he could have ruled him not to be interfering with play.
Which one was it? Well, no one knows. He cannot be questioned about his decision. And the referee’s report on the match will remain secret, unless it happens to be leaked.
I believe that fans should be told why that goal was allowed to stand. The officials influenced the course of the game with an incorrect decision, yet there is no process of holding them accountable for their mistake.
In the second half of the match a Celtic player ran into the box. A Hamilton defender made a challenge, missing the ball and contacting the player, who was knocked to the ground.
The referee decided to book the attacker for simulation – that’s diving to you and me. Or, to put it another way, he had labelled the player as a cheat.
Again, the incident will be covered in the referee’s report. But we will not be informed exactly how an official who was a few yards away with a clear view could come to the erroneous conclusion that he did.
There were other incidents in the match that, in my opinion, the referee called incorrectly, including a harsh red card for a challenge that he did not appear to see and a series of fouls by one player who somehow escaped any disciplinary sanction.
Were these decisions, all of which favoured one team over the other, a result of incompetence or of bias? We can all have our suspicions but without hearing the officials’ side of the story that’s all they can be.
The nearest to transparency that the footballing authorities came was when referees were allowed to put a statement of explanation on the SFA website if they felt they had made a mistake. Strangely this did not happen very often and the practice appears to have been ended.
Why can referees not be interviewed after matches? They should be accountable for the judgments they make after all. Surely they would welcome the opportunity to explain any controversial decisions?
And why can referees’ reports not be made public? Those who run the Scottish game should be committed to providing information to the fans whose money helps to keep the game afloat.
After all, they have nothing to hide. Do they?