London Hearts Supporters Club

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Mikoliunas Saulius [I Novo 49] ;[F Ricksen pen 94] Dado Prso
18 of 048 Mark Burchill 87 L SPL H

From Turin to Tynecastle, the big clubs enjoy the perks

By Phil Gordon
AFTER a night of tortured sleep, it may seem indelicate to suggest to Heart of Midlothian fans that there is a Spanish instrument of justice that could ease their pain. The only inquisition this time will come in a court room.

The supporters of Valencia took out their frustrations with bad refereeing earlier this year with a far more sanguine approach: don’t get mad, get legal. The only coin involved was one euro. It was not used as a missile but was the token sum in damages being sought for the inept decision-making of Pedro Oliva.

One hundred fans and shareholders successfully presented a case against the Spanish referee for negligence after Oliva awarded Real Madrid a dubious injury-time penalty — sound familiar? — in a match in the Bernebeu Stadium last February. Raúl went on to convert the award, given when he dived after brushing against Carlos Marchena, to snatch a 1-1 draw.

For Valencia, the pain was ultimately worth it. They went on to reign in Spain and the La Liga title allowed them to pursue their case without any hint of sour grapes. Whether Hearts will absorb Andy Davis’s error quite as easily, only time will tell? If they miss out on a Uefa Cup place at the end of the season by one point, then the assistant referee’s decision on Wednesday night will prove very costly indeed.

Hearts made around £2 million this season from participation in the competition. It may not have been Davis’s intention to hamper the Tynecastle club’s bid to qualify for next season’s tournament, but when he raised that flag in the 92nd minute to inform Hugh Dallas, the referee, that a push had been made on Sotirios Kyrgiakos by Lee Miller, he and Hearts became inextricably bound.

Television pictures betrayed Davis’s judgment. Dallas, so often a scapegoat for supporters, is blameless. John Robertson, the Hearts head coach, pointed the finger instead at Davis. “Hugh said his assistant clearly saw Miller pull Kyrgiakos down with two hands,” Robertson said. “I have seen the tape and that does not happen. Kyrgiakos threw himself at the ball. Miller stood his ground with his arms wide. Kyrgiakos actually tried to punch the ball.”

The rage of the Hearts fans spilled over into unacceptable reactions immediately after the match. Yet the feeling of injustice had not disappeared yesterday, if the ones I spoke to are any guide to the depth of anger. What Hearts experienced, though, is not unique. It is a familiar tale around Europe, from Turin to Tynecastle, of the big club enjoying the perks.

The fallout from Señor Oliva’s poor refereeing last season was to spark a debate about Real Madrid benefiting to an unhealthy degree from contentious decisions. It has not gone away. Just a month ago, Real managed to turn their ability to procure penalties at the end of a game into an art form — by doing so when the game only lasted four minutes. Their match with Real Sociedad had been suspended because of a bomb threat at the Bernebeu. The clock stood at 87 minutes and the score at 1-1. A month later the two teams reconvened to play out the final minutes, Real managed to earn a penalty — from a ridiculous collapse by Ronaldo — and win 2-1.

In Italy, Juventus have been regarded as the beneficiaries of refereeing largesse for decades. The most powerful club in the land, which was once accused of bribing a referee in the 1973 European Cup semi-final against Derby County, found itself the target of a motion of censure from Italian MPs a few years ago after one outrageous day when they mugged Inter Milan.

In Germany, Bayern Munich enjoyed more favours than their rivals, something that now has a sour taste to it after the recent scandal of matchfixing involving referees. Andy Gray railed last week on television during the Barcelona v Chelsea Champions League tie that Anders Frisk was a referee who favoured the big clubs, with the dismissal of Didier Drogba as damning evidence.

If the Roman Abramovich billions cannot insulate Chelsea, what chance has Vladimir Romanov’s impoverished lot at Tynecastle? Hearts fans will be told that they have a persecution complex but that will simply come from people who want to divert any scrutiny away from the real issue — the inequality in referring decisions.

If Andy Davis was convinced he saw Miller push Kyrgiakos, he ought to have asked himself if it was worse than anything that had taken place on his beat in the preceding 92 minutes. It would have been unlikely. There was so much holding going at set-pieces on Wednesday night, from both sides — with Kyrgiakos and Andy Webster, of Hearts, the worst culprits — yet it was ignored by the officials. If it was deemed unworthy of action then, then the goalposts should not be moved once stoppage time comes along.

It is in that frenetic finale that players will simply try to con officials. As El Hadj-Diouf proved recently with his dive that won Bolton Wanderers a taut game at Blackburn Rovers, it leaves everyone with a horrible feeling of being duped. As far as holding is concerned, football requires a police of zero tolerance. Once referees start dishing out ten penalties a match, players will get the message.

Fernando Ricksen’s successfully converted penalty could also prove decisive in the outcome of the Premierleague title race, though perhaps Alex McLeish was missing the point when he stated: “I am sure Celtic have had some luck in games as well.”

That’s all very well, but it is no concern of Hearts — and is no consolation to them.

Taken from

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