Hibs’ Leeann Dempster accuses SFA disciplinary procedures of ‘bringing game into disrepute’

Scottish clubs have been told they must act now to overhaul the current SFA disciplinary procedures after authorities were accused of bringing the game into disrepute.

James Keatings is shown a red card after a challenge by Rangers' Ciaran Dickson which the SFA's disciplinary panel refused to rescind. Picture: SNS.
James Keatings is shown a red card after a challenge by Rangers' Ciaran Dickson which the SFA's disciplinary panel refused to rescind. Picture: SNS.

Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster said that recent decisions proved that “significant surgery” is required to ensure the process is “fit for purpose” and, calling for the changes to be agreed and implemented ahead of next season, she insisted it would allow everyone to focus on all the positive aspects of the Scottish game and mute the moaning.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle had reacted angrily when a judicial panel failed to overturn the red card that will rule James Keatings out of the Scottish Challenge Cup final, despite the Highland club presenting video footage which seemed to refute the referee’s view that he had dived during the semi final win over Rangers Colts on Sunday.

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The three-man panel still refused to rescind the second yellow card, prompting a strong statement from the Championship club which said: “There can be no other conclusion other than they do not understand football… It damages the credibility of our governing body and brings the game into disrepute.”

Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows tweeted his support, calling for a complete do-over of the current process and Dempster backed him up, tweeting that she supported the sentiments but added: “We’ve spoken so much about this to the powers that be and I personally feel we’ve not made much headway. Needs to change...”

She was speaking at the launch of Hibernian’s pledge to build on being “The Greenest Club in Scotland” to help combat climate change – in a move which has been welcomed by the Scottish Government. The club are rated third the UK and lead the way in Scotland, becoming the first Scottish club to participate in the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.

But the Easter Road chief executive said that while the game in this country is in relatively good health, with many initiatives to be proud of, those highlights were often being drowned out by the negativity fostered by the frustrating compliance procedures.

“We waste too much time talking about stuff like this,” she said. “There’s too much energy and frustration around the compliance process. You only need to look at instances in the recent history to see there is genuine misunderstanding, discontent or annoyance with the big process at the minute.

“That [Keatings] card should have been rescinded. That’s not saying anything about the referee because I don’t know what he was asked so I’m making no judgement on that but surely it is obvious to any regular football fan looking at that. It is straightforward, it should have been rescinded and there is no dubiety for me. I think instances like James’ brings it back up again, it is back at the fore and the impassioned statement Inverness put out, which was brave, has generated within our big football family a sense of frustration. I don’t think [the compliance procedure] is unfit for purpose but I think it needs some significant surgery. Clubs need to be part of that. We all have individual voices but I think it’s time the clubs came together. Let’s stop moaning about stuff.

“The opportunities to grow the game in Scotland are opening up but we end up getting side-tracked and going up different alleys with all this stuff. Let’s work together – doing things transparently. If we want things to change, we have to do this together.

“Alan’s tweet was challenging, my tweet was challenging, but sometimes we have to go down these routes to stimulate discussion because at the minute, the system isn’t working and I think there has to be a wider recognition of that.”