Stewart Regan: 'We want to be sure we're talking about football'
Speaking at Hampden as he unveiled the Judicial Panel Protocol rule book which will form the basis of what Regan believes will be a "speedy, robust and transparent" replacement for the previous disciplinary procedures which were scrapped as part of the radical changes approved at the SFA's historic annual general meeting last month.
SFA chief executive Regan is determined to see Scottish football portrayed in a more positive light in the campaign which kicks off today and has made his feelings clear to leading managers and players. To that end, it emerged yesterday that Regan effectively gatecrashed the Scottish Premier League's annual pre-season gathering of club managers and captains on Thursday to both explain the workings of the Judicial Panel and underline what is expected of those on the pitch and in the technical areas.
"The managers and captains were told we are starting a new era," said Regan. "There is a clear message going out and they were reminded of their responsibilities. We want to make sure we are talking about the game of football this season. All of our club officials were also fully briefed on the new disciplinary set-up and they were both supportive and appreciative of the work done in such a short space of time to put it together.
"I'm sure there may be teething problems as it's a brand new system. It won't be plain sailing but we will learn as we go along."
A total of 205 disciplinary rules now come under the powers of the Judicial Panel, replacing the Disciplinary and General Purposes Committees which were subjected to so much criticism for both the expediency and effectiveness of their work.
The SFA are currently recruiting a full-time Compliance Officer to lead the Panel. In the meantime, the role will be filled by a solicitor seconded from the SFA's lawyers.
Any offences missed by a referee during a match will be referred to the Compliance Officer who will decide if there is a case to answer. If so, three members of the Judicial Panel will be called upon to sit on a tribunal for each case.
Hearings will generally be held every Thursday, allowing the SFA to adjudicate on reported offences within a week, as opposed to several weeks or even months under the previous system. The Judicial Panel, which will ultimately have up to 100 members to call upon, will include club representatives, SFA council members, lawyers, private sector company executives and representatives from other sports. The three members for each tribunal will be picked on a 'cab rank' system, working through the list, to ensure no-one with conflicting interests can sit on any case. It was possible before for someone from a club in a certain division or league to sit in judgment on a case involving another player or club from that same division or league," explained Regan. "That isn't helpful and we have removed that possibility."We are really pleased with the quality of individual we have for the Judicial Panel so far. Putting this system together, we have drawn on best practice from the disciplinary processes of Scottish Rugby, the Heineken Cup and both the FA and Premier League in England."
Other notable changes include the end of the disciplinary totting-up procedure which saw players earn suspensions for accumulating points for bookings and dismissals up to an 18-point threshold. The new system will instead see players earn an automatic one-match ban after collecting six bookings in a season. Any appeals considered frivolous or merely intended to delay a suspension will see a further ban added.
Among new rules introduced is one to deal with the increasingly prevalent issue of social networking sites used by managers and players. Any criticism of match officials through such a medium will be subject to a minimum three-match or maximum 20-match suspension.
Further protection to referees is provided by a new rule making it an offence for any player or club official to comment about a match official in advance of a fixture.