Friday, February 26, 2010

Referee!

When does a conspiracy theory eat itself?

Consider this: An unnamed source at Celtic accuses SPL referees of incompetence (at best) in their handling of the club's matches this season. Some Celtic supporters are already convinced they are conspired against by the authorities and see this as legitimising those claims.

When the BBC report both the complaint and the SFA's denials, some Celtic supporters claim that they are victims of a BBC-SFA conspiracy to undermine the club before Sunday's Old Firm clash.

Thus, I think, does a conspiracy theory become the victim of a conspiracy theory. Seriously, all this is making Richard Nixon look like one of the least paranoid, sane men ever to hold public office.

The distant rumbling that they can hear at Celtic Park is the sound of every non-Old Firm supporter in the land chuckling at Celtic's apparent distress.

Celtic's timing has been bad, possibly fuelled by antagonism between reffing supremo Hugh Dallas and whoever Celtic dispatched to raise their concerns. By allowing someone to go off the record the week before such a big game they've made themselves look petty and desperate.

If the BBC had got hold of the story then Celtic could have said: "We are always keen to discuss issues with the SFA but would prefer to keep those discussions private."

Doesn't kill the story but it would have kept Celtic above the fray, at least in the febrile atmosphere of the build-up to an Old Firm match. Even after the story broke they could have distanced themselves from it, has John Reid never rubbished the claims of an unnamed source before?

It's all a bit grubby, tagging the Robbie Keane offside complaints on at the end of the litany of moans certainly convinced this observer that this was a cack handed attempt to pressurise the officials on Sunday.

Like everyone else I've seen some shocking displays by referees this season (an opinion apparently shared by Dallas himself) and some decent ones. But Celtic have just added pressure on referees, pressure that is likely to diminish quality rather than enhance it, likely to harm any hopes of real accountability.

But then I've also seen some shocking displays from Celtic this season and I'm far more inclined to blame that for their league standing than refereeing standards.

That unnamed Celtic source has managed to shift the focus from an underperforming side as they face a must win game. But even Deepthroat himself will only consider that a job well done if the players actually get a result on Sunday.

If not it looks like sour grapes. Mr Mowbray, it's over to you...