In the Service of Fools

Given the recent heightened focus on the refereeing standards in Scotland, I was asked to update a previous blog from 2010 that included suggestions for changing the way refereeing is managed in Scotland .

Having had a look at original my thoughts are “ here we are again”, for the very same reasons the blog was penned in 2010.


Because the refereeing issue is in my view connected to a lack of proper financial controls that create moral hazard, where one party can act with reckless abandon (see Rangers latest accounts), but other parties, as happened in 2012 are left to face the consequences.

So I’ll just repeat the suggestions made then but with an added comment on the proposed use of VAR, and how that and proper financial controls can save Scottish football from itself. First the Referee Service

Note the word “service” for this is the way that much of what the SFA do should be viewed. The SFA provide a number of services to the clubs who play in Scotland. They should not be seen as their masters but their servants. Or in modern terms the clubs in their professional leagues are the customers and the SFA the service providers. This change of attitude would allow competition to provide such services to enter the scene and so improve them.

This would be a huge cultural change but it has to start somewhere and here we are again under starters orders IF supporters act to bring the change about by calling their clubs to account for allowing the past to repeat itself today  as a result of the notorious  sporting integrity breaking Five Way Agreement, that UEFA never clapped eyes on where our game became a franchise and clubs where stores that changed from Mr Noodles to Nachos but were still the same because they sold food. 


The Referee Service

This would be split with the SFA doing the recruitment, training and match appointments (having taken the nature of the game to be officiated into account). However the monitoring and evaluation would be the province of the customer, using referees or ex refs from anywhere to mark to a standard set by the customer. This spilt of responsibilities would prevent any one person being in a position to exert his own influence on referees as a result of being part of the appointment and evaluation process. It would safeguard the SFA from the kind of suspicion that led to the referees’ strike and lead to a higher standard of referee because the customer would be setting the standard not the supplier (as happens everywhere in business but football) If it did not, it would free the SPL/SL to hire their own referees from wherever they could get them. A bit of competition never did anybody any harm and that includes our referees who, if they reached higher standards, would be in more demand outside Scotland.

Here is the addition brought on by the introduction of VAR which is just another service. Use this “here we go again” opportunity to put the VAR service AND the refereeing it watches over out to tender. The VAR supplier is also the referee monitor service to the leagues and the SFA become trainers and developers at lower levels of professional referees and work with the VAR service under a contract that rewards both parties.  

The Licensing Service

This needs to be calibrated to meet the financial position of Scottish clubs.  The principles in UEFA FFP that stipulate what is to be treated as allowable income and allowable debt continue,  but regulating controls to prevent clubs going bust or acting in a reckless financial manner need introduced. Points deduction is no deterrent if such recklessness creates huge points gap at end of season when the CL money is at stake. Nor is the threat of losing all won by that recklessness a deterrent, when the nature of how it was won is downplayed then ignored and airbrushed from football history.

If survival depends on access to CL geld then referees , as matters continue to stand will come under the kind of scrutiny that unless addressed,  leads to an ever growing suspicion,  because here we bloody well are again,  that our game is bent .

Worse it leads to thinking that the clubs like it that way but ignore that their supporters do not and will continue to ignore until supporters vote with their feet.

In short the Licensing Service that is supposed to protect the financial well being of Scottish clubs has failed. It perpetuates a moral hazard almost by design that caused Rangers demise in 2012  and that failure and how it was dealt with under the 5 Way Agreement has undermined the integrity of our game, causing increased scrutiny of referee decisions and if not dealt with this time will eventually kill football in Scotland as a sport.

VAR however if introduced as a professional service on lines suggested should encourage more prudent financial behaviour in future by making reckless behaviour so risky it will stop and with it the moral hazard it creates.

821 thoughts on “In the Service of Fools”

  1. From the DR online
    “Dougie Imrie charged as Morton boss one of FOURTEEN cited by SFA over alleged betting offences
    Robbie Copeland 1 hour ago”

    I pass no comment on the allegations , of course.
    But isn’t there something absurd and hypocritical of the SFA, as a ‘governance body’ which itself perverted the sport by the creation of the Big Lie, still having a Compliance Officer tasked with identifying breaches of rules by others?
    As revolting and cynically hypocritical as Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers preaching to the public while blatantly disregarding the law themselves.

  2. I am conscious of the earlier suggestion that SFM expand to cover politics and the consensus that it shouldn’t. But, but…surely already one of the most competitive years for Liar of the Year… Boris Johnson, Novak Djokovic and of course the gold standard SMSM… and we are only 2 weeks into the new year. I despair of our country.

  3. wokingcelt 14th January 2022 At 22:39
    “..we are only 2 weeks into the new year.”
    Stewart Robertson getting some stick from Alan Pattullo in ‘The Scotsman’ today for all but having ‘sounded the death knell for the days when as many as 6-7000 away supporters attended Old Firm fixtures.’
    I find it hard to believe that even a ‘Scotsman’ journalist doesn’t know that one of cheeks of the arse that was dubbed ‘ the Old Firm’ died of the cancer of sporting deceit/tax evasion when it entered Liquidation in 2012, and ceased to exist as a football club participating in Scottish professional football.
    In the context of a competition relating to untruths, Pattullo may very well be eligible to participate, because such ‘old firm’ as might have existed prior to 2012 does not now exist and to imply that it does is to depart from actual truth.
    [And how brave of Pattullo to dare to criticise Robertson for ‘ serving to diminish the very fixture that does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the sale of TV rights’]

    (The online report may be a little different from the print report, from which I quote)

  4. wokingcelt 14th January 2022 At 22:39

    I am conscious of the earlier suggestion that SFM expand to cover politics and the consensus that it shouldn’t. But, but…surely already one of the most competitive years for Liar of the Year… Boris Johnson, Novak Djokovic and of course the gold standard SMSM… and we are only 2 weeks into the new year. I despair of our country.


    I hope SFM does not expand to cover politics. The absolute hatred and intolerance I see on other social media platforms regarding politics saddens me. It is utterly vile.

  5. Corrupt official 16th January 2022 At 10:52,
    ‘..It’s no the same club, other club club. It’s the other club, same club club.’
    CO, I wouldn’t subscribe to the Herald to save my life so I didn’t read beyond the first sentence in the link.

    It prompted me, though, to watch Mark Daly’s documentary again, to try to see on what possible grounds Whitehouse and Clark and Grier could conceivably found a claim for damages against the BBC.

    In traditional BBC documentary style, Daly simply referred to documents and information from interviews, put that information to interested people, recorded their answers when any were given , and raised further questions which they had every opportunity to respond to.

    In the documentary Daly made no assertions of ‘guilt’ but merely suggested that such answers as were offered did not fully address the questions asked, with plenty of scope and opportunity for the individuals to respond and/ or clarify matters.

    Roll on a Court action, and may the Courts be back to normal by then!
    I like to be fair, and while I have never understood why BBC Scotland bought into the Big Lie instead of challenging the wretched BBC Trust who told them, in effect, never to suggest that RFC of 1872 had been liquidated, I will be with them in defending the Daly documentary.

    But I wish, and I hope the BBC wishes now, that they had allowed him to follow up and investigate the filthy 5-Way Agreement , which in my view, was morally much more reprehensible and destructive of trust than any wrongdoing by grubby little ‘private’ men.


    So a referee has been stood down or reassigned away from the Glasgow derby.Given there has been no further comment on the allegations of match fixing currently being investigated by the SFA I find it troubling that such a measure would seem to impugn the reputation of the official concerned . It’s almost as if this referee is reliable enough for some and not for others.Very strange.

  7. gunnerb 16th January 2022 At 17:54
    ‘..So a referee has been stood down or reassigned..’
    Can anyone see any reference to this on the SFA ‘referee appointments’ page on the SFA website?

    Does the reporter Cairney give his source?

    If the SFA has not itself issued a statement directly to us, the punters, their PR people need a sharp kick up the jaxie.

    It’s unbelievable that, when an announcement has just been made that some clubs’ personnel are facing allegations of breaking the serious rules regarding betting on football games , the PR people have allowed the circumstance to arise that a journalist, rather than they, reports the fact that a change in referees has been made, giving some reason for the change.
    Like you, gunner, my mind flew to making connections that ( I hope) are utterly and completely misplaced, but we know that the SFA was not above doing favours such as creating the Big Lie when it came to protecting RFC of 2012, and continues to propagate the lie that TRFC is RFC of 1872, and the probable lie that the UEFA licence of the ‘Res 12’ issue was legitimately awarded to RFC of 1872!

    If they can do that, they can play jiggery-pokery in the appointment of referees.
    We know that CL football is vital for TRFC’s survival. So do the SFA, as they knew it was for RFC of 1872 in 2011/12, and , I believe, would have no hesitation in arranging some kind of fix – if they thought they might help TRFC get the required result. ( Not that I think that any change would do so!)
    That’s what happens when a big lie has once been told: Trust is broken.
    And will not be restored until the SFA announces that TRFC is not RFC of 1872 and will not be allowed to claim a 150th birthday as a football club.

  8. gunnerb 16th January 2022 @ 1754hrs & John Clark 16th January 2022 @ 2212hrs:

    At time of writing, the SFA Referee Appointments page for the ‘cinch Premiership’ only carries details for today & tomorrow’s fixtures.

    The referee who has (allegedly) been removed from a future fixture is officiating at one of the clubs involved tonight. (As an aside, I was under the impression that referees are not usually appointed to matches weeks in advance.)

    That opens few lines of speculation:

    a) One club is indifferent about the referee in question.

    b) One club isn’t indifferent & has made their feelings known to the SPFL/SFA.

    c) The SFA, with the approval of the Head of Referee Operations, doesn’t want that official in charge of a certain fixture for whatever reason or reasons. He can referee other matches involving (at least) one of the clubs.

    d) The Head of Referee Operations, who is in charge of appointing suitable referees to fixtures on behalf of the SFA, doesn’t want that official in charge of a certain fixture for whatever reason or reasons. He can referee other matches involving (at least) one of the clubs.

    e) It’s just paper-talk piddle, ramping up fans’ emotions & adding all-important ‘clicks’ to the journo’s profile. It’s not happened, been considered or been discussed.

    There’s five easy pieces to speculate upon. No doubt there’s several more.

  9. Jingso.Jimsie 17th January 2022 At 16:27

    I think it’s more of a case of the fixtures have been postponed and other arrangements are necessary now .With Bobby Madden , you get the Bobby Madden Show – it’s all about him .

  10. paddy malarkey 17th January 2022 At 16:56
    ‘..I think it’s more of a case of the fixtures have been postponed ‘
    If so ( and I’m happy to accept that that could be the reason) was Cairney being wicked enough to try causing trouble, as well as being unprofessional enough not to source his info?

  11. The Glasgow Derby is still showing on the SFA website as 2nd January with 4 named officials. I understand but can’t confirm at least 1 name has changed. If changed and official appointments for other games in Feb are yet to be named then the only reasonable* explanation is that the original official(s) isn’t/aren’t available for non football reasons.

    *Reasonable equates to totally above board. Something the SFA have a history of not being and although Farry fits I’m talking within the last 10 years

  12. paddy malarkey 17th January 2022 @ 1656hrs:

    I doubt that Mr. Collum was ever officially appointed to the match in question. He’d be one of a short leet of (no laughing at the back!) the best officials & thus in consideration.

    However, it’s possible that it was indeed his shoatie for this fixture (based on whatever algorithm that Crawfie uses) & he’s been bumped for some reason.

    As for your ‘postponements’ comment, I assume you’re making some sort of oblique reference to certain clubs’ league positions & points totals affecting the selection of officials? Shirley Knott!

  13. Jingso.Jimsie 17th January 2022 At 19:42
    No , I think that changes had to be made to accommodate the new dates and some refs will have other commitments to be taken into consideration .

  14. paddy malarkey 17th January 2022 At 20:32
    “.I think that changes had to be made to accommodate the new dates..’
    I think you’re probably right.

    But assuming that Cairney wasn’t acting the goat and that what he reports is in fact well-founded, it’s lousy PR work from Hampden!
    And if Cairney WAS at the madam, it’s lousy PR on their part not to contradict him !

    In other words, when the SFA speaks, there’s a fair chance that forked tongues are flapping.
    When they don’t speak, there’s a fair chance they’re dodging the column about dodging ‘Collum’!

  15. dom16 18th January 2022 At 12:28
    “..Fascinating news about Derby and the procedures the Football League in England are putting in place.”
    Thanks for posting that link, dom16.
    Perhaps the most interesting points about the EFL’s statement are, first, that they have made such a clear statement of the League’s understanding of its role of protecting the integrity of the sporting competition before all else, and secondly, that there is no hint that any entity other than the football club is in Administration and, if the Administrators fail to bring it out of Administration[ and as we know, some Administrators do fail, it is that football club that will enter Liquidation and cease to be a member of the League :​no poncing about with non-existent companies!
    I suppose it’s relatively easy for EFL to make such a statement: the English Press has not been fattened up over the years on succulent lamb from the table of a tax evading and sports cheating hubristic knight of the realm.

  16. Interesting too, JC, that the EFL rules apparently have large swathes of discretion as commented on by them in a positive way in that article. I wonder if English fans appreciate that discretion or if, like the majority of us, worry about how it will be used by the authorities.

    From reading the article, I imagine the Derby fans will feel that discretion is being used against them, but I think we all agree there has to be some discretion allowed to cover various scenarios as the EFL argue.

  17. Shoddy secretarial/arithmetical work at Ibrox?
    From Companies House:
    “..17 Jan 2022 Second filing of a statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 23 December 2021
    GBP 4,283,286.33”
    [The first filing was
    “05 Jan 2022 Statement of capital following an allotment of shares on 23 December 2021
    GBP 4,279,286.33 , and that entry now has this note attached
    ‘Clarification a second filed SH01 was registered on 17/01/2022”
    Mind you, I am not the best of arithmeticians myself!
    Because I can’t think of there being any benefit in deliberately mis-recording I suppose it is just a genuine mistake with no intent to deceive?

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