When engaging in a civil case under Scots Law, where one witness’ testimony contradicts another, a sheriff will rule not just on what witnesses actually say, but on their demeanour, assertiveness, body language and other perceivable traits (I’m no lawyer but I’ve first-hand experience of this).
Alek Tonev’s SFA Appeal panel, faced with contradictory evidence, explained their decision on this basis, “Tonev gave his evidence in a guarded and hesitant manner”, whereas Shay Logan “gave his evidence in a careful and measured manner”.
Alek, Celtic, you and me are free to disagree with this verdict, or cite the fact that the player may have appeared hesitant because he was so uncomfortable speaking English, he attended with an interpreter (who was unused). In these circumstances hesitancy appears normal, I can’t imagine speaking at a hearing conducted in French with anything but hesitancy, so to find against the player on this basis is blatantly incongruous, but that is a side point.
Celtic threatened to take the SFA to the Council of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). My hunch is that before this Appeal was rejected, the SFA’s counsel confirmed that the panel were able to judge on matters of demeanour and manner.
CAS do not re-hear cases. In this instance, they will only determine if the grounds on which the decision was made, and subsequent punishment, were within the rules of the governing body which conducted the appeal. It is inconceivable that the SFA, who employed counsel, would return a verdict which they knew could be referred to CAS, if it broke one of their own rules.
Like you, I don’t have enough information to judge one way or the other on this one, so I’ll offer no view. Don’t be stressed that our reputation will be damaged by the charge. These incidents are so rare at Celtic they are headline news and recalled for decades (literally). This is a good thing.
Will get round to the moves being put on the SFA on other matters shortly, lots to cover this week.
Got your CQN Annual yet? Just over one week until Christmas!