Media, Scottish Football, SFA

Ref Off BT Sport!

[*Update: Celtic DID indeed qualify for the Champions League group stages after a woeful performance in Israel! Woohoo!*]

Good Evening.

This is the 500th Clumpany blog. And if you have enjoyed them as much as I have then I wish you well with your continued therapy.

Many thanks to everyone who has taken an interest since this occasional exercise in surrealism started in April 2015. 

Thoughts on the Celtic v ICT Scottish Cup Semi-Final

And let us hope that one day Celtic fans will find it in our hearts to forgive Josh Meekings for his Scottish Cup semi-final handball, as well as the army of officials who missed it. Bitter, moi? 😉

That was back in the Ronny Deila days. Remember him? It seems a lifetime ago that he was in charge, and the form, tactics and performance level of the Celtic team under Brendan Rodgers at this early stage are starting to seem light years away from those of his predecessor. 
Tonight’s is a huge game as the Hoops try and secure Champions League group stage football for the first time in what feels like living memory. Oh, and yes and a whopping great pile of cash. 

I usually try to switch off from getting pre-match nerves as they can ruin my day, but tonight’s second leg feels like a potentially season-defining moment as Rodgers’ Celtic aim to get a place at the top table of European football and pretty much make the fans’ year.

You might also say it could be an era-defining fixture given the amount of money available to Celtic if they progress. Champions League revenue may put a significant financial distance between them and their domestic rivals (Dave King’s warchest notwithstanding…), while Champions League football is likely to appeal to a standard of player normal beyond their reach. Of course money doesn’t guarantee success if you don’t use it wisely!

However, whatever the result tonight things seem very positive at Celtic just now, and although group stage Europa League football would feel like a disappointment, it would still be European competition and a chance to pit the club against some very good sides. It would still be enjoyable and a great learning experience, so no one should panic.

But stuff that for now! We want Champions League football! Come on!

This morning, I had a lengthy chuckle at the Daily Record’s genuinely interesting revelations about celebrated referee Craig Thomson who has made a hash of some  major decisions in his recent televised games. 

Craig Thomson broke protocol by refusing to speak with BT prior to St Johnstone versus Celtic clash

Thomson apparently took umbrage at BT Sport’s Chris Sutton calling him out for “bottling it” by not sending off Sevco’s Harry Forrester against Dundee for a challenge which can only be described as ‘agricultural’. A challenge which was only one of several such ‘spectacles’ in the game.

According to the Record, Thomson refused to cooperate with BT Sport ahead of and during the recent St Johnstone-Celtic game, and affected the running of adverts by blowing for kick offs earlier than planned and without reference to the BT floor manager. He also apparently refused to discuss the reasons for the game’s bookings with BT backroom staff (as is the norm) to ensure that accurate information can be communicated to viewers.

Now, assuming the Record has got this correct, it is utterly bewildering! 

Fancy that! A referee being surprised and upset to get criticism! We have never seen the like before! Whatever next? Thomson suddenly getting annoyed that he has to use a whistle rather than a trombone? Thomson being outraged that he can’t wear ballet shoes while officiating? Thomson raging that he can’t take referees’ ‘man in black’ moniker literally and dress up as the late great Johnny Cash during games?

“Hello. I’m Craig Thomson”

The truth could be that Thomson has the sort of thin skin which can’t be addressed  by a refereeing course. It certainly seems as though he has thrown his toys out of the pram, and he can have no complaints about BT Sport (who certainly seem to try and present our game with some professionalism and style) kicking up a stink with the SFA and SPFL. There are contracts in place relating to the broadcasting of matches around the world and this includes precise strictures about the timing of each half of the match.

Broadcasters don’t want officials taking liberties on a stroppy whim. Nevertheless, recent events won’t stop Thomson refereeing a Champions League playoff game this week, as well as Dundee Utd v Raith at the weekend. Isn’t football great at learning from its mistakes?!

Personally (if the Record’s eye-catching story is correct), I would remove Thomson from televised games and preferably all football until it can be determined whether he is going to officiate without bringing any personal angst to his games. He seems to have called into question his ability to remain dispassionate, and that is something no senior match official should ever do.

However, I suspect that some sort of fudge will emerge with everyone committing to ‘redouble their efforts to bring viewers a quality product’. However, I hope this fudge does not include the likes of Sutton having to rein in his criticisms of referees. Calling out refereeing mistakes is one of the important ‘checks and balances’ in football. If criticism is frowned upon, and the SFA’s men in black are beyond reproach we will have a serious problem. Because it will result in referees who don’t always seek to improve and perform to the highest possible standards.

As for Craig Thomson’s longer-term future, at least he can rest assured that having seemingly lost his cool, no football fan will ever mock him for it. Because football fans are like that. They love referees and wouldn’t dream of trying to wind them up.

Enjoy the game tonight!


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