I am not a religious man, and indeed all I ask from those who are religious is that they leave me alone. If they don’t tell me how to run my life, I’ll quite happily let them get on with their own.
Yet I try to be respectful of others’ beliefs no matter what I think of them. Which is why I find it strange that the head of refereeing in Scotland can apparently (at least according to lots of news reports) send out an email from his own official Scottish FA email address with a cartoon about the pope which members of the Catholic faith would find offensive. The man might well have the view that the activity of certain priests and some bishops over the matter of child sex abuse is a disgrace that needs all the publicity it can get, (and indeed I’d agree with that – not that that makes any odds) but it seems weird that he should use his official email (and by implication his position) to send out such an email.
Especially at a time when the refs in Scotland are thinking of going on strike (although by the time you read this, they might have changed their mind). They are thinking of striking because they feel they are under too much pressure – and yes when it comes to threats against the safety of your family, that is way beyond the acceptable amount of pressure that anyone should ever have to take as a result of their job.
As I understand it the SFA provide the referees to the Scots Premier League, and the SFA is in fact a conglomeration of the top clubs in Scotland. So it is a bit of a circle as it is the officials of the top clubs in Scotland who are criticising the refs (although presumably not actually threatening to send the boys round to do the family over).
I am English, and come from an English heritage, and so don’t have a natural understanding of all things Scottish, but from my English perspective what leaps out at me in relation to Scottish football is how it still has sectarianism running through it. It is not just that some teams are Catholic based and some Protestant, but there seems to me (from my position way south of the border) that there is a genuine and strong belief among Celtic supporters that their team is being endlessly done down in the league by Protestant refs and a Protestant organisation. Part of the starting point of all this is the fact that Celtic manager Neil Lennon faces two SFA charges over his criticism of match officials plus a touchline ban.
It seems to me what we are seeing is an utter breakdown in the fundamentals of the footballing system in Scotland.
And much of it is made worse by the fact that the Scottish FA have been trotting around the leagues in Norway, Estonia, Iceland, Ireland, Wales and probably a few other locations too, trying to find some strike breakers. Not the most clever approach, it seems to me.
The Scottish FA said it had offered “the promise of tougher and more immediate sanctions on players and club officials who abuse referees and match officials, and especially those who challenge their integrity and honesty. These new guidelines also incorporated a ban on all club officials commenting on referees in the build-up to matches and in the immediate aftermath.”
Having heard the strike is still on, the SFA said, “the weekend of action will proceed as planned and the Scottish FA will implement, where possible, a contingency plan to allow some fixtures to take place as planned this weekend, using officials from other international associations.”
Apparently the Dutch FA had expressed willingness to break the strike at first, but now they have backed out. Gijs de Jong, the KNVB’s competition manager, said: “When we heard there were death treats, we pulled out.”
Meanwhile as we all saw on TV, Real Mad players deliberately got themselves sent off for timewasting in the Champs League game. It is a good job the match was not in the EPL, because if it had been, what with the refs’ reluctance to take any action whatsoever about time wasting, the match would still be going on and we would still be waiting for the goal kick and free kick to be taken.
Real Mad certainly brought the game into disrepute, as did Uefa by having regulations that allow that abuse of the system, as do English refs by not taking action against time wasting no matter how extreme, as do the SFA by trotting around trying to find strike breakers, as does anyone in Scotland who does anything that allows sectarianism to continue.
It’s all a bit naff, so here’s a film to watch. If you click on it I get a penny or two, and that helps keep paying for this site and the History site that goes with it. Give it a click.