Interesting stuff happened in April and early May beyond the gates of Ibrox. Here's a randomly biased look at it from afar.
We all remember the farcical hand-ball affair not too long ago, when the whole might of Celtic FC threw its weight at the officials and the SFA, since their referees at the SFA-Cup semi-final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle missed an incident that would have given Celtic a penalty.
IF the referees have had a different angle and unobstructed view (not part of the Celtic argument, BTW). Snatched from one of their own inquisition articles ...
As it was, letters were being send, former Celtic great Chris Sutton (who was himself well-known for "winning" dubious free-kicks and penalties in his day) gave the referees a damning verdict on screen, and finally the Compliance Officer got onto the scene of what was by now known as "Handball-Gate". It of course ended up as the utter farce it was, the SFA panel threw the complaint out for technical reasons (probably much to the relief of the SFA first and foremost).
It is of course interesting to note that Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell is a member of the SFA board these day, which in itself beggars belief. Did he write or instigated the letter from Celtic to the SFA and brought it along when he went there?
Onto the weekend thereafter and league business. And, to stretch the English language a bit, "normal business was resumed". For that Sunday's ref Willie Collum wrongly awarded Celtic a penalty for an incident a full yard outside the area:
Rotten refs in new howler as Willie Collum gives Celtic spot-kick for foul that was a YARD outside box - http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/f...willie-5587021
Foul on Mackay-Steven:
Look at the reaction of Celtic after that:
We got lucky with penalty but it was NOTHING like McLean’s Hampden howler insists Celtic boss Ronny Deila
Celtic boss Ronny Deila: Dodgy penalty at Tannadice is no consolation for Hampden handball horror show
Utterly typical of Celtic. Why not simply say: "Yes, we were really fortunate in this case, as the foul was outside the area."
But that's not like them and their culture of grievance. And it is ultimately wrong to think that there are any differences in the respective incidents. Much like both cases (i.e. the ICT hand-ball and Zaluska fouling Ofere in the area with everyone looking on (and no penalty being given, nor the event being mentioned by Celtic)) during the Cup Semi-final were wrongly dealt with, this one was too. It was glaringly outside the area.
But it simply cannot be acceptable that it is up to Celtic to decide which mistake had the greater implications. Who is to say how the respective games might have panned out had the decisions gone Celtic's or ICT's way. For there is much more in this than just Celtic's interest, which they kindly forget. Their opponents have so much to play for too. Well, probably not at Tannadice that Sunday, but a mistake remains a mistake.
Let's cast our minds back to autumn then, when an incredible penalty decisions gave advantage to Celtic, who, at the time, simply couldn't find their form. In a game against St. Johnstone, the one where a certain Dutchman received a retroactive two-match ban for diving, the Perth Saints were denied a perfect 100% clear-cut penalty. There still was all to play for with Celtic leading 1-0, yet when Dave Mackay was fouled by van Dijk, no penalty was given. It could have easily been 1-1 at that stage. You can probably still hear the cries of anguish, as later in that game, Mackay was adjudged to have fouled Boerrigter in the area, received his marching orders and Biton converted the penalty, 2-0 Celtic, game done. Yet, as has been mentioned above, Boerrigter was actually hauled in front of the panel because he dived. Alas, the Dutchman accepted the ban, but not only were St. Johnstone denied a clear penalty, but also on the wrong end of a double cheat.
The Celtic manager said at the time:
"I haven't seen it but as I said yesterday, there will be decisions for and against Celtic and over 38 games the best team will win," Deila said.
"But I don't like diving. I don't want to cheat.
"We have to see the pictures and if he dived too easy, I will have to have a little talk with Derk.
"I want fair play but I have to see it before I can say anything."
If he dived too easy? What is that supposed to mean? Essentially it was a clear-cut decision not given against Celtic, a cheeky penalty given for them and a player being wrongly sent-off too, handing Celtic an undue advantage in a game that was not as straight forward as the final score will tell you. But hey, things even themselves out over the season, so take it like a man and don't come up with conspiracy stuff! Well, we don't, we just look at it as it is.
Let's move on to the Motherwell game in autumn, the final score being 1-1. With the 'Well leading at Parkhead, Scott Brown sunk to the floor in the area with Kerr close by, essentially running out of steam but hardly worthy of a penalty. Aluko was banned for the same stuff a few years back, in one of the first and more controversial cases after the introduction of the Compliance Officer. Here it meant a point each and not 3 for Motherwell, who now may need every point to avoid relegation. Is that any less important than an "obviation of a possible treble" for Celtic?
Well, in terms of "sporting integrity" a possible cup victory is of course essentially meaningless, as much of what Celtic does this season (like on Sunday) was achieved with the help of Guidetti and Griffiths - one signed after the transfer window (for whatever reason) with the special help ... ahem dispense of the SFA. The other actually being hauled in front of the judges for a racist incident in March 2014 (!) and being tried in October (how convenient) 2015.
Some law or SFA rule cases in Scotland take their time, as we know. Not like Duncan Ferguson's, Kyle Lafferty's, or Sone Aluko's. And the beneficiary more often than not hails from the east end of Glasgow. Loovens anyone? Not that there is much discontent to be heard from their ranks about that. Or, indeed, from the Scottish media or even other clubs and their bosses. (There obviously is much discontent on those clubs' internet boards, but hey, who listens to or reads that?)
On we go to that penalty against Hearts in the 4th round of the Scottish Cup (oh the irony), with the scoreline being 1-0 in favor of Celtic. Referee Willie Collum (who was the ref on that Sunday again?) awarded Celtic a penalty after Guidetti fell to the floor. Yep, he fell to the floor. Afterwards, Ronny Deila actually "refused to condemn the player, or criticize the referee for getting it wrong, insisting these things even out over a season." Too bad the internet does not forget:
We also have that as a freeze ...
Does it get any more blatant? Did Guidetti receive a ban or a talking to by the Compliance Officer or even had the grace to say he was lucky. Or did the media do its job? Ahem, rather not ...
John Guidetti did not dive to win penalty! Celtic striker in the clear with the SFA
Well, things "even themselves out over the season", as we know. But can they take their own medicine or actually show any grace in defeat or adverse circumstances, after profiting from so many and even more blatant wrong decisions?
So, why is it up to Celtic to decide what is a clear mistake and what is acceptable and what is rather insignificant? Answer: Pure arrogance.
And that is the problem in Scotland. Whether it is the authorities, the press or other media. Celtic simply get away with it. And on top of that, get away with bold as brass claims by former players and supporter's bosses alike. It makes you wonder where impartial journalism has gone, why it takes untainted "newbies" like Ann Budge to have a go at Celtic and eventually the SFA? You also wonder at which point the SFA will finally start regrowing their own (sic!) spine, use independent people to run the game and meet out judgments, rulings and decisions even-handed.
That would be a day, wouldn't it?!
Instead, the SFA appoint a new "non-executive" director, an acute business-man with a great pedigree no doubt. For the SFA it might appear that also means being self-confessed Celtic-mad. Enter Gary Hughes.
"Celtic-mad Hughes recently had a reunion, of sorts, with his former paymasters when Emap bought a 27.8% Scottish Radio stake from SMG at the knock-down price of £ 90.5m, in what some observers dubbed ''an old pals act''. Hughes scoffs at the suggestion, and in his staccato, machine-gun delivery, rattles: ''I wish the world worked like that. No, it wasn't an old pals act."
Well, well. And they speak of conspiracies against them?
And finally ... the Play-offs!
For clarity, this involves quite a few teams and before we go to the things that matter for the Rangers' audience, let's spare a thought for Montrose. They'll face Brora Rangers in the SPFL League 2 play-off/relegation battle, after Highland League champions Brora knocked Lowland League counterparts Edinburgh City out. The 1879 founded Angus side thus faces the threat of ending up playing outside the top divisions, while the Davie Kirkwood led Cattachs could clinch the chance of playing up there for the first time in their history. Brora actually had a supporters' vote whether to compete in the play-offs, due to their remote location. The bosses decided that they'll take their shot at glory though.
Now, will the SPFL demand the 50% of the entrance fees (e.g. Adults: £12, Concessions: £6, Family: £15) from those cashiers at Dudgeon and Links Park respectively? For the sake of the Scottish game? We'll probably never know. But what we know is that Stephen Thompson - not in his job as Dundee United chairman, but as an impartial member of the SPFL board - tells Rangers specifically that they cannot let in their 25,000 season ticket holders in for free during the play-offs. His boss at the SPFL, Ralph Topping has a similar stance:
The league's board have taken the stance that the clubs must abide by rules, which the SPFL believes prevents free admission being given, with Topping warning against "self-interest" dictating an altering of the rules.
Self-interest? I'm not sure what the play-offs costs are at other grounds, but if 30,000 plus people come to Ibrox to see a game, the costs might be somewhat higher (if not to say exponentially) than anywhere else. That the SPFL wants 50% of the gross (!) gate receipts is stretching it even further, as it leaves us with an even more reduced income and thus money to pay our bills for policing et al. Are we (and other sides) being punished for getting into the play-offs? For the sake of the game? Remember 2008, when we were handed a gruelling schedule of games coming up to and after the first European Cup Final a Scottish (sic!) team had reached in years. Out of "sporting integrity" and for "the sake of the game". How come that in Scotland teams being successful in the game are being held back and punished? (BTW, has Celtic FC been to Japan by now?)
Now, that is past and we have to deal with the here and now. And the here and now is that the SPFL grabs money where it can. For, as these fine men at the top let us know:
And Thompson says the rules were brought in for the good of the game, adding: "When we merged the league bodies, £1.5million was given up by the top-six clubs.
"That cost my club about £100,000 last season. We didn't do it for our own interests.
"Everyone voted for the play-offs. All 42 clubs voted for this set of rules in June 2013 when we merged the league bodies.
Was that as clear-cut a vote as the merger then? Our special "friend" at the BBC tells an interesting story ...
There had been dissenting voices from Second and Third Division clubs but 23 of the 29 clubs voting backed the plan for restructuring. A minimum of 22 votes was required, while Third Division champions Rangers did not get a say as they remain associate members having joined last summer.
You do not actually know where to start with this hypocritical lot up there. First they did their utmost to get Rangers off the radar, the SPL board chaps that is. Utterly impartial, unbiased, and for the "good of the game" ... plus "sporting integrity". After noting their foolish mistake - born out of a short-sightedness that beggared belief at the time, and still does - they wrecked a 100-year old league body after it refused to surrender to the SPL's bullying tactics (i.e., wanting Rangers to be installed into the 2nd and not, as per SFL rules, in the 4th tier). What is beyond parody is that a financially ruinous body like the SPL managed to bribe (yep, that's conjecture) a whole host of 2nd tier teams to threaten the SFL (lower tier and traditionalist) hardliners with a walk-out. William Wallace could tell you a few stories about that way of short-sighted traitorous thinking. So the SPL / SFL "merger" took place, based on borrowed money from SFA and former SPL clubs alike, who were and are, as we know, awash with money. Which they graciously handed to the rest of the teams for the good of the game.
You know, even from this far away, one can (still) smell the stink.
Perhaps the SPFL should not concentrate on squeezing money out of some of their member clubs to pay for its own sins and self-inflicted bills to the SFA et al, but actually tries to do its job properly? As in getting a sponsorship deal in place after two barren seasons? Or actually "deal" with the TV stations instead of grabbing any crumbs that the latter deem "worthy" for the Scottish game?
Maybe it is time to ask the chairmen of the 4th and 3rd and now 2nd tier sides in the Scottish game about who helped their clubs most financially? Years of incompetence from the authorities, or the thousands of Rangers supporters filling their grounds and leaving the Blue Pound behind?
Of course, it is good opportunity for Mr. Thompson to raise a warning finger at Rangers. His hordes at Tannadice will sure agree and join in the choir ... while he hopes that they forget how his manager sold two of his club's best players in January to a league rival, stopping any reasonable hope for trophy this season stone dead. Alas, the accounts will look better than last season and probably better than that of most other Premiership sides.
The future did look so bright for the "New Firm" back in 2011, didn't it? Too bad that there wasn't a single ounce of silver added to the Tannadice trophy room since that fateful year. Ach well, Stephen, we feel your pain.
Given what transpires each day about the SPFL TV deals for 2015/16, you are inclined to ask what would happen to that lot - authorities and clubs up there - should Rangers remain in the Championship for another season.
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