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Andy’s Sting In The Tale (10/05/24) “100 Wrongs Righted”

Date: 10th May 2024

(Photo:@Homesoffootball)

 

(Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Messenger)

Last week I talked about the SFA’s VAR Review Panel who announced out of the blue that out of 1181 VAR interventions in Scotland 26 were incorrectly judged by the VAR refs in Ballieston.
I’m not sure if they deemed that good or bad.

These SFA figures were then widely quoted in the press, on the radio and on TV.
I took it for granted that they were legit and bona fide.
We all did.

But they are not.

They’re Poppycock (aka soft dung)
We need better information

Let’s go back in time.

At least a year ago, a long, long time in a different age when the SFA still spoke to us, the SFSA.
Back then the SFA were on the cusp of introducing VAR and the 12 clubs included some very unhappy bunnies knowing they would have to pay for the VAR system.
Some clubs wanted it to fail and just to go away.

The SFA were looking ahead to the VAR launch and the anticipated bedding-in and someone on the 6th floor thought it would be a good idea to have a future overarching ‘Review Panel’ made up from high level of renta-ex-pros / insiders to review how VAR was and is working.

A bellwether and hopefully a reassurance too.

SFA panel find 13 wrong VAR decisions as Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen and Hearts among clubs affected - Football ScotlandThe plan I think was to hire 3 ‘experts’ to sit down regularly and look at all the VAR interventions individually and agree whether they were correct or not.
And a panel of 3 would mean no hanging votes and clean decisions.

Somehow and for reasons I don’t know, from day 1 there was no place for a qualified ref on the VAR Panel although a tame whistler was considered important enough to be provided to the ‘experts’ for ‘consultation’ should the ‘experts’ feel the need.
I’ve been told as well-paid ‘experts’ their mindset is they know the game and its rules inside out.
You won’t be surprised to hear that seldom if ever have the expert know-it-alls felt the need to ask for guidance.

My ex-pro pal wasn’t lucky enough to be invited onto the panel gravy train, but one of his besties was and is actively involved and from what he says I think the make-up of the panel changes each time and that there are a dozen or so on the master list.

All stuff that should be public domain but for some reason isn’t, but that’s Scottish football for you.

Supporting the Right Decisions

I’ve written that I’m in favour of Scottish football and football in general making the right i.e. the correct decisions.
We all want that even when it goes against our own clubs.

It was never properly publicised that VAR 2023, as introduced into Scotland, was never a finished article but a workable, work in progress, and a process that would evolve.( And who knows where the coming AI referee support will eventually lead us anyway).

Meanwhile it was a certainty that the new VAR process was always going to have teething issues, everywhere, and yes it has had a few.

But is VAR an abject failure like we’re been told every day in the media and also informed it is seen as in Sweden and elsewhere?

I’m not sure it is.

I think the message we’re getting is confused and confusing from muddled thinking.

VAR The New Bad Guy, the Meeja’s Back-Pages Bete Noir?

Why I could never be a football fan - Up Your LevelI am open minded and wanted more facts because deep inside I think that all the frustration that used to be hurled at refs and the establishment for making the ‘wrong’ decisions is now being hurled at VAR because “it has to be somebody’s fault” that we didn’t score, get a penalty, get him sent off etc.
We all like to be angry and it’s always someone else’s fault.

So if you can’t be angry at the decision itself or the man who made it because he called it right then any frustration and anger has to the fault of the VAR process especially if it took 2 minutes.

Consider one fact.
We all think there is more VAR intervention than there is because we see it on TV all the time as part of key highlights in every game.
Highlights are everywhere and VAR features in highlights and that is a change for sure.

But nobody seems to be talking about the realities.

Firstly the records show that that there is only 1 VAR-called review, where the ref goes across to look at the telly, in every 2 or 3 games so far in Scotland. (I was surprised at that, I thought it was much, much more)

Footballers-Faking-Injury-300x187 - City Dads GroupSecondly that statistically it takes less time to review questionable stuff on the wee telly than waiting for a free kick to be taken or a time-wasting substitution to destroy the rhythm later on. ( I was also surprised at this)

And when I became aware of these open contradictions I wanted to know more.
I  would have liked to talk this through with Crawford Allan the soon to depart Head of Refereeing but his boss Ian Maxwell, SFA’s Grandest Fromage, has forbidden him from talking to me or anyone at the SFSA.

As a wee aside into Mr Maxwell’s Blackball decision here’s a yes/no interlude

Is that blackballing decision outrageous to the largest independent fans group with nearly 85,000 registered members?
Yes.

Is our ‘blackballing’ a badge of honour for the SFSA?
Maybe. (Not quite as definitive as Rose Reilly’s SFA sine die back in the day).

I’m sanguine enough to think,  – Is it just the kind of thing that happens when decision making happens in dark rooms with no transparency?
Yes
B
lackballing is easier than listening and addressing inherent issues.

And Yes it is one of the things that should be changed yesterday.


So Back to Trying to Find the Real Facts Behind VAR

Firstly I wanted to know if there were really 26 ‘wrong’ decisions made so far and what they were?

Talking to retired refs with pals still in the various loops, and therefore in the know, I was told the level of wrong decisions had been significantly exaggerated by ‘the career-long ignorance’ of the panels.

Basically if the panel of 3 judged with reviewing decisions had been knowledgeable of the detail of the rules of football, to referee level, the ‘wrong’ calls made by VAR would be more like 5 or 6 rather than the 26 out of 1181 quoted.

Quite a difference.

And remember football is played to the margins of everything so there will always be a few ‘wrong’ calls even with VAR and AI when it comes because judgement lines are so fine.

But the deeper I dug into the 26 in the report the more I wanted to find out the real numbers.
I wanted to hone in on the real reason we have VAR.
And what VAR has actually delivered to our game.

I wanted to know :-

How Many ‘Wrong’ Ref Decisions Have Been Overturned So Far in Scottish Games?

For me this is the critical question.
Why is nobody in the media  asking the SFA?
And why are the SFA not singing out loud?

My ref pals concluded there between 90-110 correct VAR overrules so far

So basically Scottish Football can thank VAR for around 100 decisions that got it right when the ref had got it wrong or needed particular assistance.
But for whatever reason you won’t read about that positive number in the MSM.

I don’t know what these actual decisions were or if they were crucial decisions.
But 100 or so wrong decisions overturned so far can’t be a bad thing.

And the retired chaps on the VAR Zoom also said, ‘VAR puts more pressure on us because all key decisions are checked and in the public domain’.

So without any big digging and without speaking openly with Crawford Allen I’m starting to see the current and long term positives of VAR and that they outweigh the downsides now and forever.

So It Really is Big News North of the Wall, But Why the wrong Messages?

Imagine a totally different dynamic .
Imagine the SFA releasing results of their properly qualified panel of say 2 refs and maybe 1 ex pro concluding that Scottish Football had corrected 100 mistakes.

Why are the SFA not selling the benefits and evolving the system at the same time?
Why is the SFA not changing the profile and modus operandi of their own panels to make them better?

It was asking questions like that, that got us blackballed.

 

 

 

Andy’s Sting in the Tale

 

1. Camelot Awaits
2. A VAR Champion Size Cock-Up
3. An Undersold Cup Final
4. A Plea from Palestine

 

1. John Swinney Bumped Our Meeting But Tom Hunter Has Shone a Light on the Way Forward

Last Wednesday was just the wrong date for Maree Todd’s first round table about the future of football, but the Ministerial team is still in place and a new meeting will be arranged.

I’ll keep you all posted.
In the meantime in a parallel world I read a really interesting article by Tom Hunter who was calling for the Scottish Government to welcome outside focus and talent and expertise.

My advice to John Swinney — by one of Scotland’s richest men (thetimes.co.uk)

Its short and I’ve juxtaposed what he is saying because its bang on for football.

Tom Hunter’s Wisdom ‘A La Andy’
How 60-minute matches could make football last longer | The Week– There is no time to waste.
– Gather the experts to do the digging and formulate a robust and realistic strategy for the future of our game.
– Get the best brains around a table and keep the process round the table where there is nowhere to hide.
– Plot how Scottish football can become a global pioneer through all levels.
– Create a plan to build the football economy top down and bottom up and attract investment.
– Share the plan and keep it current and updated in the full light of transparency.


2. Best Ref in the World Screws Up and Gives Hollow Apology

It was well into stoppage time when Bayern were attacking and 2 critical ‘man in black’ mistakes were made.
The first was the assistant referee who wrongly raised his flag on a ‘maybe’ very tight offside situation rather than let the Bayern play complete and VAR to kick in.
He should not have done that.
Marciniak the Polish ref maybe didn’t see the flag, didn’t stop play immediately, and the attack carried on for a couple of seconds.
The alleged ‘best ref in the world’ then saw the flag and should by the VAR protocol he works with all the time have ignored it and let the play finish.
But he didn’t.
He took the decision to blow the whistle just as Bayern equalised.
So no VAR intervention and no goal because the whistle had gone for the offside flag!

Game over.

Dreadful mistakes and today’s ref’s apology butters no parsnips for the German side or fairness.

Real go through and the whole thing reminded me of how Dundee United were treated in Rome 40 years ago.
So even VAR doesn’t guarantee the right decisions.

And is it me but is the Champions League just a parade for the monied bug guys.
I’d rather watch Kilby against Stranraer.

 

3. Letting the Wee Guys Down

Buckie were obviously not worthy of even a non-secret 2 way agreement to play The Kilby and take their chance.
Now we’re a week later and Stranraer drive up to East Kilbride on Saturday.

This game should not be happening, and Not Because Buckie Were Shafted.

 

Stranraer should already be in the Lowland League as bottom of 42 clubs.
East Kilbride should already be in the SPL2 replacing them.

And Buckie or Brechin as runners up champions should be playing Clyde in a one-off final at Hampden.

But for now we have the absolute bollocks of a pyramid entry point that the SFL clubs voted in with self-interest very much to the fore.

And in the play offs in the absence of Buckie we have Kilby representing 75,000 people with a G4 pitch against Stranraer representing 16,000 and a lovely grass park with home advantage in the second leg.
They’ve played3 times before and each game has been won by 1 goal.

Both games will be tight and should be on telly.

Stranraer - Historical Football KitsI didn’t know that Stranraer were a comparatively late entry to the Scottish Leagues in 1949 but are also one of 20 oldest clubs in the world having been founded in 1870. Only Queens Park and Kilmarnock are older in Scotland.
Kilby are newbies, founded just 14 years ago and have already had 2 previous attempts at escaping the Lowland League.
Against Cowdenbeath in 2017 and in the first play-off against Cove in 2019.

Scottish football has become so obsessed with our 2 team top league that we think starving everything underneath is normal.

It isn’t.

Good luck to both the wee guys.

 

4. A Plea to the EU

 

I came across this and lifted it from one of the football sites, ‘Inside World Football’.
(You won’t find it in our MSM).

It’s a letter from Palestine West Bank teams pointing out some facts to the politicians in Bruxelles.
There is even a Scottish connection from a site called ‘Scottish Sport for Palestine’ and I noted ‘Jews for Palestine’ also signed it too.

Palestinian West Bank clubs write to EU calling for ban on Israeli sports participation – Inside World Football

“May 8 – In a letter to the European Parliament, three Palestinian clubs from the West Bank have called for the ban of Israel “from all sports until it ceases the occupation of Palestine.”

Arguing that Israel must comply with international humanitarian and human rights law to have legitimate standing in the European sports space, the letter states that “Israel must be banned from all sports until it ceases the occupation of Palestine, withdraws from illegal settlements, stops implementing apartheid regime, stops killings of civilians, stops starving of population in Gaza, and stops implementing ethnic cleansing policy.”

Al-ShyookhFC, Al-IstiklalFC and Al-DohaFC from the West Bank signed the letter which highlights Israeli settlement clubs who operate in the West Bank, which constitutes, argues the letter, a violation of article 72 of the FIFA Statutes, and participate in the Israeli league.

Irish Sport for Palestine, Jews for Palestine – Ireland, Sport Scholars for Justice in Palestine, Scottish Sport for Palestine, Red Card Israel, A City United 4 Gaza, Academics for Palestine were among the other organisations signing the letter”.

Sport can be a power for good but it takes principled people and cojones.
I’d back that by saying we need more women at the top making the big decisions.

 

That’s it from me for this week.

If you are not an SFSA member, please join on our website.

Join over 80,000 Scottish football fans and let’s #reclaimthegame – Scottish Football Supporters Association – SFSA (scottishfsa.org)

andrew@scottishfsa.org

Andy’s Album of the Week

Cathexis [Explicit] by Bambie Thug on Amazon Music - Amazon.co.ukIf I wanted to be on Eurovision trend to increase followers and subsequently get rich from advertising Andy’s Album would be Cathexis, by Bambie Thug the rather unorthodox Irish Eurovision finalist.

I’d never heard of the artiste before watching a Eurovision semi this week and googled.
Not just a one-track Euro-wonder.
There was a full album released last year and without listening to it all, the final line of the review I read on line was, “If this isn’t the work of a future pop superstar then what is”.

 

Anyway it all went whoosh over my head in a flash so here is my real album of the week and it’s inspired by this week’s intro headline and the fact that Elton and Bernie in 1969 attempted to write the song for Lulu who won with the truly awful Boom Bang a Bang.
Elton and Bernie’s song ‘Can’t go on Living Without You’ came last out of 6.

Don’t Shoot Me I’m only the Piano Player

Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player - Wikipedia‘Our Reg’, the failed Eurovision song composer and piano player from Pinner with the stubby wee hands got on with his life.
In 1973 he was inspired to  name his latest album after a wee soiree with Groucho Marx, a long time hero of mine.

It all happened at a time when ‘the Piano player’ was considerably less famous and was somehow playing at Groucho’s home in LA, as you do when you are across the pond.

After an evening of constant one-way ribbing by the master, and being constantly called ‘John Elton’, the comic genius who played Rufus T Flywheel among others, held out his middle and index finger and pointed at newly christened John Elton as if it was a pistol about to fire.

Our Reg raised his hands and said, “Don’t shoot me I’m only the piano player”.

So now you know.

Elton and Bernie followed up their breakthrough ‘Honky Chateau’ with ‘Don’t Shoot Me’ and were in a best of career groove that led to ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ just 6 months later.

 

Don’t Shoot Me is good but looking back quite patchy.

I never knew why his derivative wee tribute to the 50s, ‘Crocodile Rock’ became a statement and greatest hit.
It never worked for me.
But Daniel, High Flying Bird and Texan Love Song take me right back and are still up there with Our Reg, Elton John and even John Elton’s finest.

Texan Love Song is so underrated.


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