Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What Does It All Mean?

It is probably good that someone other than a Romanov has come out and questioned the standard - if not the integrity - of referees in Scotland.

One mistake is forgivable - two such serious errors suggest either incompetence or an official being influenced by external factors. If it is incompetence then McCurry and his linesman should pay the penalty and serve time outside the SPL. If they were influenced by the crowd - and you can imagine these results going the way of Celtic at Parkhead or either of the Old Firm at Hampden - then the SFA need to completely overhaul the way our officials are trained.

In actual fact I've seen so many errors by McCurry that I'm inclined to believe that this is just another measure of his gross incompetence. Gordon Smith is disingenious in accusing Craig Levein of questioning the integrity of McCurry: Smith has been around football long enough to know that if you're not good enough you get shipped out. What's the difference for referees?

Smith made much of being a football man when he got the job. By throwing this back around at Levein he shows that he's learnt the bureacrats art of politicking. Other than that he has done nothing to suggest he was the right man for the job. A refreshing change would have been for Smith to say "actually, Craig's got a point. If this standard of refereeing continues then the integrity of the game will be called into question. Let's do something about it now." Some chance.

It is noticeable that following the "corner" awarded to Celtic against Motherwell last week the internet message boards were full of Rangers fans crying foul. This week the reverse is true. Old Firm supporters view Scottish football through a prism of their own prejudice.

What they fail to realise, and what Sir David Murray fails to realise when he launches attacks on the SPL and the SFA, is that the Old Firm's bloated sense of their own importance has left the whole of the Scottish game inexorably weighted towards Glasgow's ugly sisters.

What they want the normally get. And, as was proved on Saturday, if one man's incompetence is highlighted in the full glare of title run-in then it is going to be easy to people to point to officials being scared by the size of Rangers or the size of Celtic.

So we need to raise the standard of refereeing in Scotland. We need to show we have referees who are good enough to do the job, wherever the game is. We need a chief executive at the SFA who will at least accept the premise of a legitimate debate. We need to applaud, not crucify, Levein for asking the questions.

We need a new dawn. Because a title showdown and a European run for the big two does not hide the fact that Scottish football is uninspiring right now. We expect Rangers and Celtic to win but we expect them to start each game on a level playing field. If the officials are not good enough, if they can't handle the pressure, then they must be removed.

But, of course, this is the real world. And nothing will happen. Levein, who has rebuilt United and sent a team out that was more than capable of achieving something against this Rangers side, will be harshly punished. Now ask yourselves what would happen if Rangers and Celtic found a referee that agreed with neither of them? My guess is he'd be out on his ear before Gordon Smith had time to bury his head in the sand.

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