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.