You can set your watch by it. On Saturday, when discussing the reaction to Celtic’s goal against Hearts, I wrote, “Celtic will face the consequences of Thursday’s decision.” And how. They faced a litany of incorrectly flagged offsides at Tannadice yesterday. The appropriately named Calum Butcher’s studs-first assault on David Turnbull did not received the red card it clearly deserved. Referees have clearly been cowed by the coordinated reaction since Thursday evening.
Despite one over-eager pundit on Sky Sports, TV pictures of the goal on Thursday were inconclusive. Celtic were denied a good goal when they met Hearts earlier in the season in a game they would go on to lose. Clearly wrong decisions happen every week, commonly at some grounds.
However, the outrage over this particular incident tells you all you need to know about how Scotland works. The assistant referee who judged the goal good has had his religion and heritage explored online, the media have had a feeding frenzy and SFA Head of Referee Operations (HoRO), Crawford Allan, chose to depart from protocol to say that in his opinion, Celtic were advantaged.
Allan’s intervention in this incident is without precedent. He was not running the line, nor on the Review Panel, therefore he is not competent to comment on the incident. When asked, a passive response is all that he is entitled to give.
Instead, he ramped up the pressure on his officials when refereeing Celtic, permitting the officiating we witnessed at Tannadice yesterday. Perceived injustice rattling about a media echo chamber that drew in the SFA HoRO created a false impression that Celtic unfairly benefit from referee mistakes.
Crawford Allan’s job is not to re-referee Celtic games. His position gives him a responsibility to comment on specifics with propriety. I have no prior beef with him, he may otherwise be an excellent HoRO, but you knew, and I knew, there would be severe consequences for Celtic for some in the media deciding they ‘got away with one’. He should have known the result of stepping outside this remit to pour some petrol on the flames.