Referees' role in appeals process is enshrined by law, says Smith

THE Scottish Football Association has dismissed calls for referees to be removed from the disciplinary appeals procedure.

The Scottish Professional Footballers' Association wants a complete overhaul of the current system, which sees match officials review their original decision before deciding whether a claim for wrongful dismissal should go to a review panel.

The SPFA's stance was backed by Celtic, who were recently critical of the procedure after captain Scott Brown was sent off by Dougie McDonald in the Old Firm derby at Ibrox and the referee then opted to stand by his decision. But SFA chief executive Gordon Smith says such a change to the system would contravene Fifa rules.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In a statement, he said: "In light of recent comment in the media I feel compelled to clarify the Scottish FA's disciplinary procedures, in particular relating to claims of wrongful dismissal.

"Let me state clearly that neither myself nor the Scottish FA believes the current system is without flaw.

"Nevertheless, it was implemented after discussions with the wider Scottish football constituency through the Disciplinary Committee's Working Party, which consists of representatives of the Scottish Premier League, Scottish Football League, Managers' and Coaches' Association, PFA Scotland and the Referees' Union.

"It should be noted here that while the Celtic chairman, Dr John Reid, believes the procedure should involve a review panel – 'this is surely the only right and proper process' – with no input from the match official in charge, this would, in fact, contravene one of Fifa's fundamental laws of the game, namely 'The Decision of the Referee is Final'.

"Furthermore, for the purposes of transparency, it should be pointed out that when the claim for wrongful dismissal procedure was amended in 2007, it was approved by the Disciplinary Committee, of which Eric Riley, Celtic's financial director, was chairman. He remains part of the committee as vice-chairman and, thus, would be in an ideal position to address any concerns raised by his club.

"We are mindful of the growing public debate to streamline and harmonise the current procedures and I can confirm that discussions have already taken place to expedite certain aspects of the process."

Smith believes the statistics show that referees have demonstrated honesty when assessing claims so far this season.

He added: "As a point of reference, the argument that referees should not be part of the review process in a claim for wrongful dismissal because they are disinclined to admit to mistakes is not borne out by the facts.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"In fact, of 13 claims for wrongful dismissal received this season, six have been upheld and seven dismissed.

"Investigations into incidents the referee did not see involves a more detailed process and this, I believe, is at the root of the popular misconception over the disparity in arriving at decisions.

"Again, I will endeavour to make a case to the Disciplinary Committee in order to minimise the time between an incident occurring and the investigation being concluded.

"The association is always open to dialogue with its member clubs, managers, players and the referee fraternity.

"We are also open to new ideas. It has become apparent in recent weeks that while there is a degree of unhappiness – and arguably a greater degree of misunderstanding – over disciplinary procedures, nobody has volunteered a viable alternative that would satisfy Fifa's laws of the game.

"The Scottish FA is acutely aware that football dominates the national agenda in an era of instant information and it is my intention as chief executive to help implement measures that improve the speed and consistency of decision-making to everyone's satisfaction."