Yesterday was just the latest example of institutional cheating, euphemistically termed as ‘Honest Mistakes’ by the Scottish referees themselves. CQN Magazine pointed out last week that yesterday’s referee has already made an ‘Honest Mistake’ this season, which prevented Celtic equalising at Tannadice in December. In recent years before the liquidation of Rangers Football Club the Celtic support had to endure a series of honest mistakes from officials. A goal kick about to be taken at Tynecastle turned into a match winning penalty remains a vivid memory. Hugh Dallas made that decision that ultimately took a championship from Celtic. Or who can forget the day the then Dundee United manager Craig Levein lost it after his side were simply not allowed to win at Ibrox by the minister  in the black? But these events aren’t new. Tony Jensen looked back at two historic “Old Firm” games for CQN Magazine to highlight a level of cheating and anti-Celtic bias among the mostly Rangers supporting officials. Before you read the article watch this…

FIRST EXAMPLE  – 1st January 1902 

Celtic 2  Rangers 4

(McMahon, Marshall) (N. Smith, Campbell, Robertson, RCH)

This match was essentially a championship decider. Well, for Celtic anyway. A victory would have made sure of the title and a draw would more than likely lead to a play off. Before 40,000 spectators Celtic gradually drove Rangers into defence, which paid off as McMahon scored.

A good deal of rough play and ill-feeling crept into the game and Mr Nisbet of Cowdenbeath called the players together and lectured them in regard to it. Shortly before half time, Rangers equalised, Hamilton deflecting a shot by Smith. On resuming, the match developed into one of rough and tumble. Nicol Smith then equalised for Rangers from a free kick. However, the goal should not have stood.

It appears that this was an indirect free-kick i.e. one from which the taker cannot score without first another player touching the ball. The ball was sent towards McFarlane in the Celtic goal, and there was a dash for it by a crowd of players. Then the ball was seen in the net, but the Celtic players vigorously protested that it had not touched anyone on the way. Referee Nisbet thought otherwise and awarded a goal, which occasioned a storm of protest.

Five minutes after the interval Hamilton pushed the ball through to Campbell who went on to score. Celtic claimed that Campbell had handled but the referee differed again. Several of the Celtic players surrounded the referee whereupon McMahon attempted to trip him. McMahon was ordered off the field. And so Sandy McMahon of Celtic has the dubious distinction of being the first player to be ordered off in an ‘Old Firm’ match.

It appeared as though the Celts were going to leave the field but their veteran forward took the ball, placed it on the spot and prepared to take kick off. Shortly after resuming Robertson scored a third for Rangers following a corner kick.

Twenty minutes from time, Marshall scored for Celtic who were desperately trying to equalise when Hamilton had the ball sent up to him and scored a fourth goal. The Celtic players hotly disputed this goal on the grounds of offside. After the match, Celtic protested against short time being played i.e. the full ninety minutes was not played. This actually was a clever piece of finesse on the part of the Celtic director J H McLaughlin who had more to discuss than short time.

However, when the matter came before the league J H McLaughlin, on behalf of Celtic, explained that the protest had only been lodged in order to bring before the League certain statements that Mr Nisbet was alleged to have made to an Edinburgh and a Glasgow newspaper. Mr Nisbet refused to answer questions put to him by the Committee and he was struck off the roll of referees.

On the final day of the Championship the table read:

                   P  W L D F  A   Pts

Rangers 18 13 3 2 43 29 28

Celtic       18 11 3 4 38 28 26

Hearts    18 10 6 2 32 21 22


SECOND EXAMPLE  – 7th January 1978

Rangers 3 Celtic 1

(Smith, Greig, Parlane) (Edvaldsson)


John Greig takes a place in the record books by creating the longest period of time between his first league goal in the fixture and his last. He scored his first Old Firm goal in the 4-0 win at Ibrox on Ne’er Day 1963 and fifteen years and 6 days later scored his last in this fixture. 0-RfMeBIZQyiKqNV_OirulOMhr4rm4mJMW8MAk0WJ5U

Unfortunately, this match was marred by two minutes of mayhem caused by dreadful refereeing by John Gordon. Celtic were trailing by a goal to nil and pressing hard for an equaliser when Joe Craig, Celtic’s centre forward, was pushed in the back by Colin Jackson as he tried to head the ball in at the far post.

Jim Reynolds in the Glasgow Herald stated that it looked a clear penalty but the referee said ‘no’ and was besieged by irate Celtic players. While the protests were going on, Rangers took a quick goal-kick, and with only Frank Munro and Peter Latchford against a five man attack, John Greig finished off the move by tapping the ball into the net to make it 2-0. The Celtic fans came over the wall and the players refused to restart the game. Celtic’s trainer Neilly Mochan went into the centre circle to prompt the players to resume. Reynolds asked five questions in his report on the game:

Why was a legitimate penalty claim turned down in the first place?

Why did the referee give everyone the impression he was running to consult his linesman, and then change his mind when he saw Rangers breaking towards the Celtic goal? Rangers had decided to play the whistle and promptly took what they thought would be a goal kick.X4E7R3p5gmmduyDIr_a3VpkpmY7BFAv5VgczpDKUYZs

Why did he allow the goal kick to be taken, when there were several Celtic players inside the penalty area?

Why did he not send off the Celtic players who pushed and jostled him and refused to start the game?

Why did he not caution Neil Mochan, who had no right to be on the pitch without the referee’s permission?

Back then, referees were not permitted to make statements in the way they have been encouraged to in the early part of the 21st century. Therefore, Mr Gordon did not reply to Mr Reynolds.

Celtic: Latchford, Filippi, Lynch, Aitken, McDonald, Munro, Glavin, Edvaldsson, Craig, McAdam, Wilson, Subs (McCluskey G, Dowie)

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