The SFA Head of Refereeing, John Fleming, spoke about the semi-final incident on Sunday, largely to protect his fraternity. Referee Steven McLean made a huge error but Fleming said “I don’t think there was anyone in the ground who would have thought it was 100% a penalty and sending off until they had seen the replay.”
This flies in the face of the Celtic players who claimed for a penalty on the spot, the raised voices from thousands of Celtic supporters, and the shout from the TV commentator. Fleming’s assertion is demonstrably untrue.
He is a man in a position of authority at the SFA. He is allowed to have opinions, or to disagree with any club, but making untrue statements to protect his referees is a wholly inappropriate. If is the standard referees are held to, no wonder we have problems. Having asked for clarification on the refereeing error yesterday, I expect Celtic will be even keener on an explanation for Fleming’s incredulous comment.
I’ve linked here to a Stanford University report on Omission Bias in Sports. The report finds that people are biased to favour inaction (i.e. don’t make a decision) over action (make a decision which will have a profound impact).
It’s an interesting concept which good refereeing guidance will account for. They found that “For all sports, effect [is]stronger if game is close and weak when score is lopsided”.
Omission bias is what we should be looking for in Scottish football. Evidence this video of former referee Kenny Clark, who while still officiating SPL games told an audience that he held a grudge against Celtic’s John Hartson and failed to award him a foul which he saw clearly enough to describe in some detail.
Unfortunately, no journalist has ever been able to contact Mr Clark to ask him about his grudges or omission bias. If this was England, the media would not allow Clark to flaunt omission bias while defending it in others, he would be called to account.
See above, Sunday’s officials greeting each other on the pitch before kick off. Before the dust settles on this one, some of us better learn a new handshake. Those wanting real change at the SFA will have to fight for it.
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