Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: The Fallout

Things are back to normal in the Scottish Premier League this week, after a referee strike this past weekend threw everything for a loop.

Luckily for the SPL, some bad weather helped out by cutting down the number of fixtures on the schedule and that freed up some refs to help out in other areas after certain foreign officials decided not to come over after all.

The Telegraph reports that seven cautions were handed out on the weekend, down from 21 and two red cards the week before, and for the most part, players were all on their ‘best behavior’ during the matches that were played before snow wreaked havoc on Sunday’s action.

The news didn’t stop there though – late last week the head of refereeing development for the Scottish Football Association quit, amid an email scandal and the ref at the centre of the latest round of controversy prior to the strike also hung up the whistle.

Hugh Dallas, a former SPL ref himself, cited ‘family reasons’ for his decision to leave his post, but there was also this: Dallas caught some heat for an email he forwarded to a bunch of people that had something to do with the Pope’s visit to Glasgow and was deemed “offensive” by Scotland’s Catholic community.

Former assistant referee Steven Craven has also accused Dallas of bullying refs – Craven has since resigned for his part in the Dougie McDonald controversy.

McDonald is the ref mentioned above who resigned this weekend after 13 years in the league. He’s the guy who awarded a penalty, changed his mind and then lied about his reasoning for not giving it (he said that his assistant, Craven, told him it wasn’t a penalty). That right there is what snowballed into this current scenario.

So it was quite a weekend in the SPL – you had the bad weather, a couple of guys quitting, some replacement refs backing out after being sent over by their respective federations, and then this next story, which is my favorite of the bunch:

Luxembourg ref Alain Hamer and Israeli ref Eli Hacmon both said after the games on Saturday that they wouldn’t have come over had they known about the strike, and found out after it was too late.

“I wasn’t given all the facts about my job before I came to Scotland,” said Hamer to the Scottish Sun (via ESPN) after watching over Celtic’s 2-2 draw with Inverness. “I was told that the Luxembourg Football Federation had picked me to go to Scotland but no one told me why or, until the last minute, even where I would be going.”

Meanwhile, here’s what Hacmon told the BBC after holding the whistle in Kilmarnock’s 2-0 win over Aberdeen:

“I am not happy about the reasons we came here. We did not know the reason before we came on Friday. If we knew it before, we would not have come here. We need to back up our friends and support them. If I knew the reasons was the managers didn’t give respect to our colleagues, we wouldn’t have come here.”

At face value those seem like valid comments, don’t they? I thought so too at first, but the more I read, the less I believed.

So, they’ve done the game, they’ve collected the paycheck and only then did they think about the fact that other refs might look at them at ‘scabs’ in this scenario. What should they do to soften the blow?

Plead ignorance, of course. “Oh, if only we had known! Nobody told us! We wouldn’t have come had we known!”

I don’t buy it.

I’ll tell you why I don’t believe a word of that nonsense: I live in Edmonton, Alberta, which is thousands and thousands of kilometers from Glasgow, Scotland. Despite that massive distance, it took me less than a minute to find pages and pages of articles about what was going on with the SPL refs!

If I’m a ref in country ‘A’ and my boss calls me up out of the blue and tells me that I’m needed on short notice in some other country, I’d be a little bit curious as to why, wouldn’t you?

Surely these people have the internet – it’s not like this ref crisis was kept quiet by any means. This is all it takes: Go to your preferred search engine. Type in “SPL refs.” Press enter.

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That’s it!

But no, these guys were ‘kept in the dark’ or lied to about why they were coming over. Give me a break!

As for the Scottish Football Association, it says it’ll be doing its best to make sure something like this never happens again and will be putting measures in place to give the referees the support they need going forward.

I know I’ve made light of the reasons for this strike (refs tired of being criticized constantly and having their integrity questioned), but I’d like to know what you think:

Should players and managers be allowed to be critical of the refs after a game, or should all criticism be handled behind closed doors?

Let me know!

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