SCOTTISH PFA Chairman John Rankin last night revealed how fed-up players are queuing up to complain bitterly about the SFA’s disciplinary appeal system – and insists the union are fighting for a radical overhaul.
Rankin spoke out almost a week after seeing Dundee United team-mate Gavin Gunning lose his appeal against a controversial three-game ban imposed for violent conduct following an incident with Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk in their recent 1-0 league defeat at Tannadice.
United were furious as they felt Gunning was the victim of trial by television and now Rankin has called for a revamp of the entire system so players are given a fairer hearing when it comes to key issues.
Players’ chief Rankin said: “There’s club reps at every club and players complain all the time about the system and the way things are going. We need to stand up and be counted. Every player complains but it’s not falling on deaf ears.
“We are trying our best to get someone on that panel who speaks for us. We need a voice. You’d be amazed at the numbers of players who complain about the system, whether it’s bookings, suspensions or the £1,000 cost to appeal suspensions.
“We need to get round a table and talk about it. The more experienced people we have in the game the better. If these incidents are not major issues then why are they dragging it through [the television and the disciplinary system]. I’ve fallen foul of it before when I was sent off. I’ve only ever had one red card in my career and I thought about appealing it but £1,000 is £1,000 and if your appeal is knocked back because there’s no player on the panel to stand up your account, you lose that money. It’s difficult when you’ve got people judging you who have never played the game.”
Rankin is striving to see a former player appointed to the panel which presides over appeals and won’t rest until they’ve done so. He said: “We speak about this on a regular basis. There’s not an ex-player on the panel and we are striving to try and get one on there.
“There’s an ex referee and people from the SFA but we need a player with game experience to put across their opinion too.
“Whether it’s an ex-player from years ago or someone who has just stopped playing recently, we need someone in there who can put across an opinion from a player’s point of view. We are striving to do that but I don’t know how close we are to getting that.
“Fraser Wishart has been in talks and hopefully it will happen sooner rather than later because it’s not just this club that’s suffered: it’s other clubs as well. If we can get at least one ex-player on the panel it helps everyone.”
Rankin also reckons using TV evidence is a dangerous road to go down. He said: “Do you try every incident? We need a clear focus on what’s violent conduct and what’s not. What’s breaking the rules? If you get someone from the TV companies going through each game with a fine toothcomb they will probably find something in each game that could get someone banned.
“We are looking to clean the game up, but you want the best product on the pitch and that’s not going to happen with players being banned all the time.”