Craig Levein: Is compliance officer trying to make Scottish football look bad?

Craig Levein has accused the SFA compliance officer Clare Whyte of giving Scottish football a bad name by being too quick to punish players for showing passion.

Hearts manager Craig Levein. Picture: SNS
Hearts manager Craig Levein. Picture: SNS

The Hearts manager said he was concerned that the game was being “sanitised”.

Levein spoke out after player confrontations on the pitch last weekend saw notices of complaint issued to Hearts, Aberdeen, Rangers and Celtic, despite referees issuing red and yellow cards at the time. Rangers manager Steven Gerrard was also cited for misconduct after the Old Firm derby and Celtic captain Scott Brown faces a disciplinary hearing for his post-match celebrations of his side’s 2-1 win.

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But Levein believes that unnecessary interventions are painting an unfair picture and threatening to douse the passion and competitiveness the Scottish leagues are renowned for.

“It’s almost like the compliance officer is trying to make Scottish football look bad. I don’t know why she’s picking on the clubs – and trying to magnify things that are nothing,” Levein said.

The latest reprimand comes after all four clubs were deemed to have breached disciplinary rule 204 which concerns three or more players and staff from one team confronting opponents and is similar to the rap eventually beaten by both Hearts and Hibs after they had a coming together in the first derby of the season, in October.

“These things happen in every game in England. And it doesn’t seem to bother anybody down there. I don’t know if this is something that’s coming from the governing body or the SPFL; if they have asked the compliance officer to make Scottish football look bad. Because that’s what is happening.

“I see it coming up on the telly and say: ‘Oh, here we go again, something negative about Scottish football …’ Then I look at what they’re talking about – and it’s almost an eightsome reel. It’s nothing.

“For as long as I’ve been involved in football, there have been situations where there are flashpoints and people are scurrying around. But, very, very rarely is there actually anything going on. I don’t know why we’re in such a hurry to punish teams for football players caring about their team-mates.

“Why are we trying to stamp that out? It’s not out of control. The referee’s in charge and they just stand back, watch what’s going on and then give people cards. It’s dealt with. Why the hell are we trying to further punish teams and players? I don’t understand it. We had one earlier in the season and it got thrown out because it was just a nonsense. I thought the one the other day was a nonsense as well. I don’t know why the compliance officer is picking this particular thing. There are so many things wrong with football, but that’s nothing. It’s just people showing passion and actually caring about their team-mates.”

The former national coach said that by censuring such actions, there is a danger that the unique selling points of the Scottish game will be lost.

Bemoaning the crack down on tough tackling, he said that also stripping out the passion and competitiveness would further dilute the product.

“I tell every player who comes here that Scottish football is different. Fans care about the team, they care about the result and they want to see players covered in sweat at the end of the game, because they’ve worked their backsides off for the team.

“Aggression is something people don’t like talking about. But, I think it’s a brilliant thing in football. You need it.

“The type of football that is played in this country is decided by two things. The climate and what the supporters want to see. The climate allows us to play fast, allows people to run for 90 minutes and supporters want to see tackling, they want to see us competing for every single challenge. It’s what makes our football different. And it’s what makes it exciting.

“But it worries me what’s happening behind the scenes with people getting involved in stuff. Why change something that’s working? Football in Scotland is good just now. It’s competitive. OK, Celtic have got away a little bit now but it’s been pretty tight all season and there are a lot of good things happening.

“But now we will be talking about the Old Firm fall-out for weeks. It was dealt with by the referee, wasn’t it?

“I really don’t understand it.”