REGULAR followers of this blog will be aware, I have an interest in Rugby Union, as much as Association Football, and I occasionally wonder why the Game for Gentlemen, played by Ruffians does not pay more attention to how the Gentlemen who play the Ruffians' game conduct their affairs.
Dummies have been spat and toys hurled from the pram at Tynecastle on Saturday
Not that I am suggesting the Scottish Rugby Union is a better-run, and managed organisation than is the Scottish Football Association. I tend to believe the club representatives in Rugby, being in the main the products of expensive educations, bought in some of Scotland's most-celebrated institutions, have a bit more “feel” for their game and make better decisions than do their footballing equivalents. However, I accept, with both codes increasingly being at the mercy of a corps of professional spots administrators, there is not a lot of difference in thinking, or ability, between the increasingly-influential, full-time “suits” at Hampden and Murrayfield.
Indeed, in certain similar departments, I feel the SFA has the superior professionals.
However, tae oor tale. Returning from the early kick-off Glasgow Hawks v Ayr BT Premiership match on Saturday, I had the car radio on. I had to turn down the volume as Alan “Biscuits” Preston suffered what sounded like full-blown cardiac arrest on “Open All Mikes” on BBC Shortbread, describing the major calamity at Tynecastle, as first of all, Craig Levein was sent to the stand, to be swiftly followed by assistant Austin McPhee.
Dummies had clearly been spat, toys had been hurled from the pram, and, Austin would not give the ball back when asked, none-too-politely for it, by a Hamilton player. This morning, we learned neither Levein nor McPhee would suffer any further sanctions from the SFA, following their Compliance Officer's review of the incidents.
This decision is the football equivalent of a “Not Proven” verdict in court (or what is commonly believed to be the rational behind NP - “We know you did it, but, we cannot prove it).
I am a fan of the Compliance Officer (CO) system. The only drawback in Scotland is, an awful lot of people who follow one or other of the Bigot Brothers, seem to spend a lot of time trying to establish if the CO is – one of us, or one of them. In this case, I think the CO has decided: the two Hearts men have been great big weans, and it would be a waste of time taking the matter further. Perhaps Mrs Budge should put both over her knee and administer six of the best with a good hard slipper.
Ah dinnae ken Craig, Mammy Budge isnae gonnie be too happy wi us
Where I do have a problem is, it's not really official. Indeed, I have long held, the Laws of the Game, and in particular Law V, which deals with the responsibilities of the referees, should be redrawn, more in-line with Rugby Union, where it says something like: “The referee is the sole judge of fact during the duration of the game.”
Thus, the ability of the CO to adjudicate would be set in the Laws of the Game, as happens in rugby with their Citing Officers, able to have a second look at foul play.
There isn't a pre-determined protocol for bringing in the CO; he looks at the more high-profile cases, but, sometimes less-well-known but perhaps equally contentious and difficult incidents are not looked at.
By the way, I don't envy the SFA Judicial Panel, having to consider Ryan Jack's red card at Aberdeen. To me, Jack clearly won the ball first, but caught Stevie May on his follow through. I defy any player, even Messi, to make the pass Jack made, then stop his swinging leg before contact. Impossible in my view, and, if it was a deliberate stamp or whatever on May's ankle, then Jack is a better “thug” than he has ever hitherto shown.
Both incidents were potentially match-changing. By taking no further action on Levein and McPhee, the CO is, in effect, saying to referee Bobby Madden - “You over-reacted there”. If, as I expect he will, Jack escapes further punishment, then the same is being said to Willie Collum.
How then do we deal with their mistakes, if mistakes they were?
MEANWHILE, back on Planet Zanussi, the search for the new manager continues. Apparently, GASL, the Supreme Being, wants the boy McInnes from Aberdeen, but, he doesn't have the cash to make a formal approach, and, in any case Obi Wan Cardigan and other experienced Jedi brothers have warned young Derek not to go anywhere near the Evil Empire.
Derek McInnes has, we understand, been warned not to go near Ibrox, because the club is skint
So, what's to be done? Apparently the search for a new Keeper of the Poisoned Chalice is set to continue into the New Year, thereby endangering several thousand Scandinavian trees, to feed the feeding frenzy being stoked-up by the stenographers and churnalists in the fair city of Glasgow.
Just as well the Scottish newspaper industry is shedding readers faster than Gypsy Rose Lee ever she her outer garments, or Scandinavia would be a snow-covered desert by now.
TONIGHT, hopefully, Celtic will finish the job and secure their place in the last 32 of the Europa League. All they have to do is avoid a three-goal loss, and the Europa League place is theirs.
In the normal run of events, Celtic will manage this. It really is difficult to see the Belgians turning things around and knocking-out Celtic. But, extremely slim though their chances are, you can never say never and an early Celtic goal at Celtic Park tonight will lift that tiny sliver of possible doubt from the equation.
Tonight, we should all be Celtic fans.