As I have already stated here recently, match officials in England must state their club allegiance.
If you read the reasoning within this BBC piece then it seems hard to argue against.
Of course, in Fair Caledonia, we’re told that this isn’t necessary.
Apparently, Scottish officials are a uniquely ethical bunch.
They’re also massively pish at doing their rather well-paid part-time gig.
Well, they must be shite, because incompetence is the only officially sanctioned explanation for their calamitous errors.
Not only must justice be done, but it must be seen to be done.
That is why the English system is in place.
I once recused myself from compiling a Social Enquiry Report on a chap because I knew his extended family.
If I recall correctly I don’t think I had ever met the person who was the subject of the report.
However, it seemed the entirely ethical and professional thing to do.
My line manager agreed with me and another colleague wrote the court-ordered report.
I have no information on whether or not a match official in Scotland ever recused himself from a match because “his” team was playing.
In England the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) keep a close eye on this matter.
In Scotland, I’m afraid, it appears to be a lot more “convivial”.
Of course, the audit process could be subverted by the official giving incorrect information.
That’s where journalism provides a necessary check and balance in the system.
Once more, we would have a problem in Scotland.
When the Hugh Dallas email story was still live several callers into the Clyde 1 Super Scoreboard wanted to raise the issue.
I have a clear recollection of one of the pundits stating that Mr Dallas was “a friend of the show”.
In the months after he was sacked from the SFA I put the following scenario to a leading Scottish sports journalist:
“Imagine it was you that had that email about the Pope and paedophilia. What would you have done with it? Would you have broken the story?”
He simply shook his head.
I pressed for an answer and then he said:
“No. No, I wouldn’t.”
Despite several attempts, he would not expand on his stance.
From my work on that story through to the financial problems of Rangers I have seen the Scottish sports hacks up close on several occasions.
There appears to be an emotional contract that binds them together.
It is important that you don’t rock the boat.
Everyone has a quiet life.
Softball questions only in pressers.
Obedient regurgitation of press releases.
Now, none of that looks to me like journalism.
It is the opposite of holding power to account.
Here, Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism, calls out the chaps on the Daily Radar.
“The reporting of the Rangers’ saga over the past five years has been a classic example of reporters being no more than stenographers for PRs offering them stories they didn’t care to verify.”
For the avoidance of doubt, I have seen this powder puff behaviour in Celtic pressers on more than one occasion.
Sycophantic questions arched gracefully through the air for Peter Lawwell to hit it gratefully out of Celtic Park.
The deal seemed to be if clubs were given an easy time then everyone could have it cushy.
Consequently, even if the SFA adopted the English model of background checks on officials there would still be a missing piece.
In Scotland, the Fourth Estate is posted missing when it comes to keeping an eye on the powerful.
However, that is no reason for the governing bodies to ignore the efficacy of the English system.
When Stewart Regan took over at the SFA he gave a presentation on a document called “Scotland United a 2020 vision”.
The late great Turnbull Hutton was present for that tour d’horizon.
He told me that he felt that he was at a corporate presentation with little relevance to the game he loved.
Moreover, he said that to me that it was 20 minutes before football had any centrality to what was being said.
He also related to me in his unmistakable Fife brogue that he thought the ex-cricket administrator was going to wear out the word “transparency”.
He then told me that he left before Regan’s talk was over.
I asked him why.
“Och, ah hud tae go oot furra pish”.
The Raith Rovers man had class.
I’m afraid that’s a commodity that seems to be short supply on the 6th floor at Hampden these days…