Brendan Rodgers has claimed Old Firm referee John Beaton had an off day at Ibrox as Celtic lost to arch-rivals Rangers for the first time since he became manager of the Parkhead club.
But while adamant Beaton’s failings were not the reason why Celtic lost, Rodgers insisted the standard of refereeing in Scotland has to improve.
Celtic were incensed that Beaton failed to take action against Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos following altercations with Scott Brown, Ryan Christie and Anthony Ralston, the official later saying he saw all three incidents but chose not to punish the Colombian striker.
In a strongly worded statement Celtic expressed their surprise that no disciplinary action would be taken against Morelos, calling on the SFA to allow Beaton to explain himself publicly while requesting a meeting with the authority’s chief executive Ian Maxwell and its head of refereeing, John Fleming.
“Given that the referee took no action at the time tends to suggest that such conduct which in this instance led to a Celtic player, Anthony Ralston, being injured is acceptable in Scottish football,” they said. “That cannot be right.”
Rodgers revealed he wasn’t totally aware of the fall-out from the game on 29 December, having travelled to Dubai immediately after the match and ahead of his squad arriving in the Middle East for their winter training camp.
But he said: “My only interest is on the field, really. That’s what I can affect. When you lose those types of games, and we haven’t had that feeling before, it is difficult.
“However, the difference for us on the day was our players of quality. The players we missed like [Tom] Rogic, [Kieran] Tierney and Odsonne [Edouard], players of quality who can make the difference. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite have that on the day.
“So, yeah, I’ve heard, I’ve seen pictures of stamps, all sorts of stuff. I’ll have a look when I go back, but it wasn’t the reason we lost the game. We didn’t score.
“I tend to not get too carried away with the emotional words around it all and focus on the field and ensuring the team stays focused on what we want to do.
“It happens all around the world in various leagues and whatnot. He [Beaton] wasn’t very good on the day, but that can happen to anyone.
“There’s no doubt that John, for me, was affected by the game. But that’s not the reason we lost. I’ve said it before, the standard has to be better and that’s a constant, it’s not just on that game. We need to improve the standards in lots of areas and that is certainly one of them.
“Again, I haven’t seen or read so much about it, to be honest. It’s something I wouldn’t get sidetracked on. Refereeing is always an issue where you want to have the best officials and I think the referees do their very best in the games, but we always want to improve standards across the league.”
Rodgers insisted his primary concern was his team’s performance, a priority improving an away record which has seen Celtic win just four of their 11 games on the road.
“I don’t really focus on that side of it,” he said “I look at us. I look at how we came out of the summer and, if you’d said to me we’d be top of the league with a game in hand, having won the cup and qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League with what we had available, I’d have taken that. Absolutely. Knowing we could get better and we will get better. Our home record has been brilliant in terms of matches played. Away from home, we’ve suffered a bit and that’s something I need to look at. It’s the reason we’re doing what we are and why we’re away, to find different solutions to one or two things away from home which haven’t happened to us in the past couple of years.
“But you have to concentrate on the positive side. The league is competitive. I’d like to think the standard we have set over the past couple of years has increased the standard of the other teams, which is absolutely brilliant for the league.
“It’s also a sign for us as a club that we need to keep improving and developing as a club as well.”