The upheld appeals of Esmael Goncalves and Ryan Jack from this past weekend further underlined the generosity of the Scottish FA panel when it comes to judging red cards.
In both of those cases, especially Ryan Jack’s, TV evidence seemed to suggest the referee wasn’t wrong with his punishment. Jack thrusted his head toward Anthony Stokes, and regardless of whether the Hibs striker also deserved a red card for instigating the clash, whistler John Beaton was within his right to issue a red card.
Some will argue there wasn’t enough in the incident to merit a red card, as under the rules violent conduct doesn’t necessarily have to be punished with an ordering off if the contact is “negligible”. But that’s part of the problem. So much of the football rule book is down to interpretation. Some referees will look at such decisions and believe a yellow card was a fitting punishment. Others, like Beaton, would disagree. Neither of them are “wrong” but that’s what this leniency is painting them out to be.
Instead of backing the officials unless they are objectively incorrect, the SFA, through the appeals panel, seem content to pick holes in understandable decisions from match officials after the fact.
A little tip: if a red card decision is debatable, your club should definitely appeal, because they’re probably going to overturn it.
Here’s just a short selection of curious reversals from the last couple of years in Scottish football, while some other notable ones are listed at the bottom.
Brown’s tackle on Boyce
Celtic had just been victims of the most laughable refereeing decision of last season when Alex Schalk went down under the... attentions of Erik Sviatchenko, conning Don Robertson into pointing to the spot.
Brown, like many of his team-mates, was livid at the decision. It was clear the anger was coursing through him when he lunged into a challenge on Liam Boyce outside the County penalty area. It wasn’t the nastiest tackle you’ll ever see, but Brown went in at high speed and scissored through the attacker.
You could argue a yellow would have been sufficient, but given the context surrounding the incident, a red was more than fair.
On appeal, it was downgraded to a yellow.
McGinn foul against Falkirk
Turning in the penalty area, a desperate John McGinn lunged in a vain attempt to reach the ball before Mark Kerr could clear. With his left foot off the ground, his studs went right into the lower shin of Kerr, who had to hop out of the way to avoid taking the full force of the challenge.
There was no malicious but it was certainly endangering an opponent and using excessive force.
On appeal, it was downgraded to a yellow.
Meekings handball goes without punishment
Critics thought the compliance officer had gone too far. The system, which typically dealt with instances of diving or violent conduct not spotted by the referees, suddenly extended to banning a player for a handball. Even though Josh Meekings should have walked for the offence in Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s Scottish Cup semi-final win over Celtic, it felt like things were heading down a slippery slope. Not only that, it robbed the defender of a place in the Scottish Cup final.
Well, the critics and Meekings need not have worried, because the panel oddly deemed it an offence not worthy of a red card.
The reason was that he didn’t deliberate handle the ball, indicating the decision was purely made on the exact lettering of the law, which is not how handball decisions are made. For instance, if a player makes himself bigger in an attempt to block the ball by putting his hands out, as Meekings did, and the ball hits his hand/arm then it’s a foul. He’s not deliberately putting his hand on the ball, but he’s deliberately increasing the chances of that happening.
Van Dijk and Ciftci escape red cards
This incident occurred in a Scottish Cup quarter-final between Dundee United and Celtic at Tannadice.
After going into a challenge with Scott Brown, United striker Nadir Ciftci kicked out with his leg, catching his opponent in the face. Just seconds later Callum Butcher and Virgil van Dijk became entangled on the ground following another crunching challenge. The Celtic defender stamped down on the stomach of Butcher, to which Butcher responded by hitting Van Dijk in retaliation.
Ciftci escaped punishment during the game, though he was later cited, while Van Dijk and, in a case of mistaken identity, Paul Paton received red cards.
In the end everyone got off scot-free. Despite clear TV evidence to the contrary, Ciftci and Van Dijk were found not to have kicked out.
It was the second time in a week Ciftci was let away with an off-the-ball incident by the appeals panel after he was cited for striking Gary Warren during a match with Inverness.
• Jason Cummings does the GIRUY sign to the Hearts support. Cited after the fact. Picture evidence supports claim. Found not proven.
• Hearts’ Callum Paterson is sent off for a heavy challenge on Darian MacKinnon of Hamilton. Successful on appeal.
• Garry O’Connor given two-game ban for a dive against St Johnstone. Hibs assistant boss Billy Brown says it was a dive. Panel disagrees.
• (As mentioned above) Nadir Ciftci cited for violent conduct against Gary Warren. Successful on appeal.
• Rob Kiernan given straight red for lunging tackle against St Johnstone. Rangers win appeal.
• Scott McDonald shown straight red for elbow on St Mirren’s Thomas Reilly. Motherwell win appeal.