It took less than two weeks for the SFA to charge two top-flight managers for criticising referees.
Brian Rice launched an incredible tirade against officials on the 3rd of April, after Hamilton’s Scottish Cup defeat to St Mirren [Daily Record]. In amongst the printable comments he made, Rice said:
“I’m angry as we are getting nothing. I’m fed up phoning Crawford Allan [head of refereeing] and getting shoved to the side because we are only Hamilton, that’s what’s happening.
“Am I paranoid? I have been in football 40-odd years. I know when I am getting shafted. Well, it’s not me getting shafted, it’s my players.”
Three days later, Ross County boss John Hughes weighed in, saying, as quoted by the Sun.
“Going full-time would help them, but one or two referees have had a personality bypass as there is no talking to them. They put that wee uniform on and they are running about out there. They should just calm down and take a notch off their jockstrap.
“Part of being a referee is about having a bit of banter, your people skills and the way you conduct yourself.”
So far, so incendiary. And you might be asking how this is relevant to Celtic, but consider this: the SFA have acted far, far quicker on criticism of officials than they have on our rivals’ Covid 5.
SFA act quicker on criticism than they do on more pressing issues
Call it paranoid if you like, but the SFA keep giving us reasons to be critical. They should act on criticism of officials, because from their point of view, it brings the game into disrepute. It’s their prerogative to do so, and you can entirely understand it. It isn’t that it’s wrong for them to act, it’s just the timing.
Ahead of two crunch Glasgow Derby meetings, the SFA dallied. There are glaring inconsistencies in how certain clubs are punished as opposed to others. Take, for example, the Boli Bolingoli fall-out: four days passed between the incident and the charge [Daily Record]. Whereas, it took three weeks for the SFA to acknowledge that five Rangers players, photographed at a party, had indeed been photographed at a party. Their club even took responsibility for it [Glasgow Live].
Yet, Scottish football’s governing body let the players carry on unimpeded. Now, due to an appeal, they’ll have been unpunished by the end of April for an incident in February.
Call us paranoid if you will. But if the Rangers players had been caught on camera saying “well, I don’t know about some of the officiating in these matches” while congregated illegally, would they have been charged quicker?
Celtic interim boss John Kennedy perhaps summed it up best [Daily Record]:
“I don’t understand why there’s such a delay. Players played against us who probably should have been banned.
“It’s something I think should have been dealt with a hell of a lot quicker to remain consistent with all the other decisions that have happened. The SFA probably need to address this themselves and give a bit more clarity to everyone in terms of the hold-up and why it has taken so long.”
SFA are losing control
Either way, it’s another headache for a governing body that’s losing control over its top-flight. Surely, sending a message to players that congregating during a pandemic is more important than Brian Rice and John Hughes being (somewhat correctly) annoyed about decisions that have gone against them?
The second half of this season hasn’t been good enough from a regulatory point of view. It’ll only get worse until the SFA clarifies its position.
Celtic and the rest of the SPFL will be watching with great interest. As well they should.