Car crash radio

Date: 18th April 2021

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

Car crash radio, is that a thing?

I have heard of it being used to describe the TV because it is a visual thing, but recently, I nearly crashed the car as I listened to Sportsound.

I often find myself, using a podcast service, to catch up on the various broadcasts that I miss during the week. Sticking one on in the car leads to a journey filled with opinions which make the travelling that bit easier, though in the current circumstances I am a tad behind in my usual flurry of podcasts of choice; us being denied the big journeys at the mo!

And so, I found myself listening on one of my daily walks, to the dulcet tones of former Ayr United boss and current Partick Thistle manager, Ian McCall, bemoaning decisions which affected his recent cup game against Dundee United. Alongside him, Craig Levein and Stephen Pressley contributed to the debate which was raging. And to be honest, raging was the emotion being kept in check by Ian.

The focus of Ian’s ire, was how, at the hands of officials, Partick Thistle had been denied progress in the Scottish Cup, against Premier League Dundee United. He contended that an off the ball incident where his player, Brian Graham ended up nursing seriously bruised ribs was one where the officials saw nothing wrong.

McCall, keen to emphasise that he was not normally a moaner about referees and indeed had spent a great deal of time cultivating a positive relationship with the men in black was suggesting that there was a need, at least, for transparency in refereeing that would see Steven McLean, the match official incurring his wrath, some form of punishment for his woeful performance. After all, he mused, the players and the club were suffering due to his decisions. They would be out of pocket and in a pandemic, both player sand club could do with the cash boost.

Stephen Pressley went a little further, in a positive frame of mind, suggesting that a full-time professional set up would support the development of standards of refereeing across the leagues and throughout the country. By having a full time focus on the laws of the game, fitness and the way in which decisions are made would allow people who are pivotal to the game, he suggested, be more likely to make better informed decisions though human error may always play a part.

Furthermore, he suggested, VAR should come into the Scottish game as a form of support for referees to be available should there be a contentious decision on the pitch.

And who did the Scottish Football Association send along to defend the current system? Darryl Broadfoot.

Broadfoot’s response was to castigate people for daring to criticize the referees in the manner they were. Such over the top criticism would, he conjectured, hamper the recruitment of quality officials and therefore we would end up with people being put off the game. Why would you ever want to become a referee when you are likely to be castigated in this manner, he mused. He was able to tell the assembled throng that any match official who had a bad performance would be marked down.

Ian McCall et al, asked what that meant.

Well, it meant, he said, that they would be, you know, marked down.

Now, in one sense Darryl Broadfoot played an absolute blinder. He represented the SFA perfectly. He gave no answer and returned to the whole question of people not wanting to become referees because of the behaviour of others. As to the issues around full time and VAR, there seemed to be a great deal of obfuscation and not much by way of explanation as to why these might not be utilized, though I am sure it may have been mentioned that it could be looked into at some point, in the future, in the fullness of time, once a preliminary point of view is settled and the possibilities have been measured against the gain we may see over a period of time as yet to be determined.

On the other hand, being marked down appeared to be beyond his limited understanding of the refereeing policy and procedure of the SFA. Mind you he did suggest at times that only people who are qualified should have a view.

It is clear he has never been a referee so why was he rolled out to express an opinion about them, may have been a question running over in his mind then; it was certainly running over a few of ours.

No matter whether you are in favour of the current regime or not, refereeing in Scotland has a checkered past. The lid was blown off the pot by Charlie Richmond who left the team of referees as he knew he would be more likely, even as a grade 1 referee to stand in the centre at Central Park than in the Bernabeu.

He was simply, not the right sort. He did not have the right accent and he was just simply not one of them.

I know what he means.

My own experience came in a tribunal where the compliance officer at the time suggested that as one of the officials was a professional man, that his word was beyond reproach. I did not use, and I should have done, the fact that one of the witnesses against him was a serving police officer as I was foolish enough to trust the system. I am not suggesting that because he was a serving police officer he was also beyond reproach but the issue of setting the ground rules on the basis of the right sort and then ignoring them is my point.

I believe that referees should be full time. I am unsure of the scale of payment for refereeing just now, but reckon it might be a bit above minimum wage, but I am quiet sure that up and down Scotland there are working class guys who are out every week helping their youth and pub teams, involved in football who would hand in their tools if an opportunity to study the game, become more knowledgeable and be the type of support for the game we need was available to them.

Controversy of course with referees is hardly a new thing; especially for Thistle. In 2018, Kris Doolan scored against Morton, with match officials, deciding it wisnae in! Thistle had celebrated – hardly proof of a goal, but the opposition had hoofed the ball away in disgust – slightly better proof! Thistle fumed, Alan Archibald, manager at the time, was left bemused – fortunately Thistle won anyway but his point was well made. Quoted in the Guardian he said, “I’m just glad it didn’t have an effect on the outcome. The referee could have overruled [the assistant], and the other assistant can see it and just say: ‘The linesman has had a bit of a bad day there, can we help him out?’”

Nothing contentious there, no need for anyone to be disciplined, all good. People are human. Some however are still trying to organise their playpens.

Professional and full time refereeing does not need a think tank.

It does not need a report.

It does require some action and some movement.


Because the current temperature in the game about the standards of officialdom is quite low. Being sensitive to how people feel about things is perhaps exemplified by, Mr. Broadfoot, who left Ian McCall somewhat offended by reference to the results he has been having with Thistle; his suggestion seemed to be that McCall was not complaining about referees when results, went his way. McCall suggested that this was a “low blow.”

After McCall went off air, Broadfoot commented, that people would hardly think they actually got on.  The silence that followed from the rest of the participants and host, Richard Gordon, made me stop walking. They were incredulous. And so was I. thus demonstrating that once the playpen has been escaped, sensitivity training might be a good idea.

Action and movement, however, needs commitment to change and listening to others. As I said, Darryl Broadfoot played an absolute SFA blinder; more Peaky than Peaches.

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