Let’s be objective, a bloodied Carl Starfelt sits on the ground and is shouting at the referee, clearly in an agitated manner. No one can see everything, least of all referees, so I am prepared to believe Alan Muir missed Carl being elbowed in the face, causing what police would call Actual Bodily Harm.
The assaulting arm was raised and clearly jerked back into the Celtic player’s face. The alternative would be that the ref saw the incident clearly and decided not to red card the Ross County player, or award a foul. It was a clear red card offence.
I have heard many referees speak about how they interpret events. They know they don’t see everything, so they look for clues as to what happened. When half the stadium and one entire team claims for a penalty in unison, they might not award it, but that’s because they didn’t see it, they usually know it should be a penalty, though. As a consequence, they close their ears to the protests and get play moving as quickly as possible.
The Rules of the Game permit referees to interpret events as they see fit. When a player is on the ground bloodied, and he reacts like a player who has been felled and bloodied, referees are permitted to interpret what happens next in context. They do this.
Dissent is a spectrum. I did not hear what Carl Starfelt said, but I know the context. Whatever he said, it deserved lateral from a referee who clearly knew he missed a violent incident.
The Second Yellow
Converse to popular belief, The Rules of the Game provide no sanctuary for the second yellow card. Practice is that a first yellow card can be picked up for a relatively minor infraction but the second yellow usually takes a clear and irrefutable breach. This is not a rule but it happens. It is in the same context of a defender committing a marginal foul inside the box that goes unpunished when the same incident would be penalised outside the box 100% of the time.
For his second yellow card, Carl did not grab or kick the Ross County player. There was no trip, there was no obstruction. Carl leaned into his opponent, who (as he did throughout the game) went down looking for a foul. I have watched the incident repeatedly. It was not a foul. It was never a yellow card. That the referee decided it reached the bar of a second yellow, elevates what happened here into the category of downright interesting.
With 94 minutes on the clock, a shot struck a Ross County defender’s extended arm inside the box. A penalty should have been awarded. We have already covered the fact that referees do not see everything. Alan Muir was having one of those days. I am 100% sure he is not a cheat and had no intention to prejudice Celtic in last night’s game.
Here’s the thing, though, Alan Muir is refereeing Celtic less than two weeks after Crawford Allan, the SFA Head of Referee Operations, broke with good governance to re-referee a Celtic game in the media, telling whoever was interested that in his view, Celtic benefited from an incorrect decision.
We predicted we would see a backlash, Celtic would get nothing but the thin edge until everyone worked the anger out of their system. Crawford Allan has yet to apologise for breaking with protocol and stepping outside the remit of his professional competency. The ranks have closed, we are in for a torrid few weeks.
It was a huge game and result for Celtic. We’ll talk more about it later, but thought we should prioritise the governance issue first.