No one has directly suggested Newco should have had a penalty when the ball struck Alistair Johnston’s hand moments before halftime on Saturday. Abdallah Sima was offside, the attacking move effectively ended when he tried to win possession. This fact is being overlooked by the losing club and instead, it is being implied they were denied a penalty by a malicious actor. Many news outlets have also reported Newco were (rightly or wrongly) denied a penalty, a tad inflammatory, but worse has happened.
What’s more, during the halftime interval, the BBC had received enough information to report “Regardless [of the offside], the officials apparently deemed the movement of [Johnston’s] hand to be natural.” So we knew then the VAR did not deem the incident sufficient to merit examination of the earlier offside decision.
You are free to dispute the handball incident, just as the decision by the same VAR when Connor Goldson put two hands to a Carl Starfelt shot when the same teams met a year earlier. We are football fans, we disagree and dispute decisions. But, there is a line even fans do not cross.
For full disclosure, here is my take on the Goldson/Starfelt incident a year ago, I thought Celtic should have had a penalty, and called for consistency from SFA officials (SFA Head of Refereeing, Crawford Allan) who chose to comment when he believed Celtic were advantaged by a decision, not the other way around.
Yesterday, Newco directors James Bisgrove and Craig Robertson met Crawford Allan and afterwards issued an incendiary statement claiming, “From the meeting, there was an overriding consensus the VAR decision of no handball was incorrect.” This implies Allan told them he believed the VAR got the decision wrong.
It’s been reported they have requested that the VAR in question, Willie Collum, does not officiate at any of their games in future. This comes two years after the same club went after referee Kevin Clancy, for red carding Ryan Kent at Pittodrie. Two Newco ‘fans’ were subsequently charged in connection with threats made to Clancy.
The SFA have yet to issue a statement but let media outlets know they dispute Newco’s version of events. Crawford Allan looks increasingly out his depth. Carelessly shooting the breeze about a decision can be weaponised by nefarious actors. If there is a good explanation, we must hear it, if not, he should consider his position.
No one lied to their manager. No one changed a match report after it became clear a conspiracy would not hold. This was a simple handball dispute for a move that was confirmed as offside.
I wish I could tell you the widespread reaction to an offside incident was a smokescreen to cover up for a defeat, or a lack of funds to spend appropriately this month, or an attempt to build some siege mentality at a club which is living on the edge. It’s not. Collum and Clancy have ethnic heritage in common, a triggering matter to some.
What will happen next? RC referees will experience increased pressure at Newco games. They know they will make mistakes, they know that if they officiate Newco they will make mistakes against that club. And they know what will follow.
I don’t think this behaviour works for clubs. Referees can also adopt a siege mentality, wagons will circle. The Halo Effect of not conceding a penalty kick for 75 games disappeared with their initial reaction to Saturday’s defeat. Human nature is almost impossible to calculate.
Once you permit outrage at a perceived injustice, it is very difficult to deescalate. The perception of being an angry, bitter and ugly outfit is difficult to shift. Anger released endorphins can be addictive. Sensible people find it impossible to work in these environments, the organisation decays. So it’s not all bad.