THE Scottish FA should follow the lead of the FA in England and invest more money into their disciplinary department in order to quell the growing unrest over retrospective punishments in the wake of some high-profile controversies.
That was the advice from Graham Bean, the FA’s first ever compliance officer and a football consultant who advises Premier League clubs, managers and players down south on disciplinary matters, yesterday.
Celtic released a statement last month expressing their surprise that Alfredo Morelos, the Rangers striker, had not been cited following a series of incidents in the Ladbrokes Premiership match at Ibrox at the end of December.
And both Steven Gerrard, the Rangers manager, and Steve Clarke, his Kilmarnock counterpart, last week expressed a desire to see consistency in the sanctions handed out by the governing body.
Bean, who is also the chief executive of National League club Chesterfield, feels Clare Whyte, the current SFA compliance officer, would be helped in her role by having improved infrastructure and urged her employers to consider expanding her department.
“The FA system in England is a lot more consistent than the FA system in Scotland,” he said. “That is for a number of reasons. One of them is you only have a sole compliance officer. I can appreciate the difficulties she faces.
“When I joined the FA back in 1999 I was the only compliance officer. Now the whole compliance department at the FA in London numbers about 30 staff. Consequently, it is a lot more structured and that means they can deal with a lot more incidents in a far more consistent manner.
“There aren’t as many inconsistent decisions. That is quite good because it means everybody is getting a fair crack of the whip. I can understand why players and managers get upset at the lack of consistency because, quite simply, it is an unfair system.
“That comes down to the fact there is a lack of investment from the Scottish FA in developing the department. They could take a leaf out of the English FA’s book. They could go and visit them and see how they have developed their department over a number of years. Nowadays, in fairness to the FA, there is a level of consistency that is acceptable.
“There will always be cases which slip through the net, but the reality of it is the English FA do get the vast majority of the decisions right in terms of the consistency and application of the regulations. With some investment the Scottish FA could make sure it gets to the same level.
“I probably suffered what the SFA compliance officer is suffering. Because there was only one of me I couldn’t review every single incident of every single game. A lot of the time you were having to react to issues rather than being proactive on issues.
“I remember when I was the compliance officer having a meeting with Davie Moyes when he was the manager at Preston North End. The English FA had taken action against one of his players. He had a list of half a dozen incidents where we hadn’t taken any action and he questioned me why that was. The reality was we didn’t have the manpower to deal with it.”
Whyte, who succeeded Tony McGlennan as SFA compliance officer back in August, regularly consults with her counterparts at all of the Home Nations associations and the extensive changes which were made to the judicial process last year were heavily influenced by those of the FA. She is also assisted extensively by other members of staff in the disciplinary department in her daily duties.
But Bean added: “The problem comes down to manpower and the fact the compliance officer in Scotland is effectively a one woman band. If the Scottish FA want to be serious about this they have to invest in it very much like the English FA did by bringing in a more structured system that is consequently a more consistent and fair system for the game as a whole.
“It has been proven that if you invest money in discipline and compliance areas, in the right people and the right training, then you do get consistent results out of it. Clearly that is what the Scottish FA need to do.
“It isn’t a criticism of the incumbent compliance officer. She is working with the tools she has been given. The Scottish FA need to put some money into this and build the department. Look at the success the English FA have had. They could get that consistency in their organisation.”
The SFA compliance officer initiates retrospective disciplinary action against a player if an incident, or an exceptional part of an incident, has been missed by the match official at the time and once three independent experts have all unanimously agreed it constituted a sending off offence.
However, Bean is vehemently opposed to “re-refereeing” games and believes that only off-the-ball incidents that have been missed by the referee and his assistants should be looked at once the final whistle has blown.
“What you are essentially doing is re-refereeing the game and I don’t agree with that,” he said. “It isn’t in the spirit of the game, it doesn’t respect the authority of the referee. I am not a fan of retrospective action.
“If we are going to deal with incidents retrospectively and re-referee the game – and effectively a group of football administrators with no experience of playing the game at a professional level are re-refereeing a football game – there must be a high level of consistency about it. And the simple fact is that there isn’t.”
Bean continued: “Given the referee’s expertise at professional level, you would expect then to get the decisions right. If he gets it wrong it is a big thing to for a referee to say: ‘I got that wrong, I need to rectify it’. I would suggest he is covering his own reputation.
“Even if you review it it still comes down to people’s interpretation and opinion. The difference being they can look at it from different angles and in slow motion until they come to a decision.
“In terms of off the ball incidents that take place when a referee isn’t watching, like somebody punching another player, then of course there needs to be punishment for that.
“If the referee has failed to apply the laws of the game correctly then it should be him who is dealt with by the football authorities. He should face penalties, suspension from the game or whatever. It shouldn’t just be a player or a club who suffer because of a referee’s incompetence.
“I am firmly of the view, and always have been, that a challenge should be judged by the referee at that time. We shouldn’t be revisiting it. It is a minefield.”