London Hearts Supporters Club

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John Robertson <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Hugh Dallas
Mikoliunas Saulius [I Novo 49] ;[F Ricksen pen 94] Dado Prso
28 of 048 Mark Burchill 87 L SPL H

Hearts query the integrity of linesman


HEARTS yesterday asked the SFA to instigate an inquiry into the "chaotic ending" to their match against Rangers on Wednesday night.

The interim chief executive Sergejus Fedotovas at first suggested the game - won 2-1 by Rangers thanks to a hotly contested last-minute penalty - might be replayed if an inquiry found there was "something wrong" about the spot-kick award.

Later, Fedotovas clarified that by saying the club had not asked for a replay in their letter to the SFA. What they are seeking, however, is something potentially more far-reaching - an inquiry which will at least touch on the whole topic of alleged bias by match officials.

Chris Robinson, who is still on the Tynecastle board as a non-executive director and accompanied Fedotovas at a media conference in Glasgow, said that Hearts supporters and those of other clubs deserved to know that the awarding of a penalty arose from "a wrong call" and not "something more than that".

"If there isn’t something more than that, the transparency which comes out of the inquiry will benefit Scottish football," added Robinson, who is a member of the SFA board.

Hugh Dallas, the referee, awarded the penalty on the advice of one of his assistants, Andy Davis, who said that Lee Miller of Hearts had fouled Rangers’ Sotirios Kyrgiakos. In the resultant melee, Saulius Mikoliunas of Hearts was sent off after he rushed towards then made contact with Davis.

John Robertson, the Hearts manager, said the referee had told him that he [Dallas] had been told by Davis that Miller "clearly used both hands to haul down Kyrgiakos". As no cameras showed Miller using even one hand to pull down his opponent, Hearts are expected to use the testimony of their manager to argue that the awarding of the penalty could not be justified by what really happened.

Last night, though, an SFA spokesman appeared to rule Hearts’ inquiry appeal incompetent when he said that the interpretation of what really happened had to be governed by the referee, and that Hearts had failed to produce any evidence which might merit an inquiry.

"No evidence has been submitted that the match was not played in accordance with the laws of the game, which state clearly that the decision of the referee regarding facts concerned with play are final," the spokesman said.

"The SFA has a clear and well-established process for dealing with disciplinary matters, and the events of Wednesday night will be considered by the next meeting of the disciplinary committee, which meets on 15 March. We will respond to Heart of Midlothian Football Club in due course."

Asked what would be his next step if the request for an inquiry were turned down, Fedotovas said: "That would be a bad answer for supporters of Scottish football." He added that the club had not decided on their next step if there were to be no inquiry.

Clearly, though, the Hearts board believe they will win the overwhelming support of their own fans - and of many other non-Old Firm football followers - by in effect asking the SFA to investigate the vexed question of the supposed pro-Rangers and Celtic bias of match officials. Besides that moral issue, however, Hearts were also motivated by a belief that the loss even of a point might have injurious financial consequences.

"This is not a step we have taken lightly, but it is one we feel is necessary on behalf of the club and its supporters," Fedotovas said. "As a club we are concerned about the manner in which we were deprived of what could prove to be a valuable point.

"The result has diluted our position in terms of qualification for the UEFA Cup, disappointed our fans, and decreased the morale of our squad. Hearts made in excess of £2million from the UEFA Cup season and the scenes which followed the awarding of the Rangers penalty on Wednesday evening led to two players being red-carded [Rangers’ Dado Prso was also sent off] and one of our players barging into the assistant due to his understandable sense of injustice.

"We do not condone such behaviour, but neither can we allow the actions to go unquestioned. We are questioning the integrity of the decision. The evidence in the press and in the video replay shows there were no grounds for the penalty, [so] we feel an obligation to question the decision."

Robinson has been involved in controversy with Rangers before, most memorably in 1996 when he tried to wave the team off the pitch at Ibrox after four of them had been sent off. Hearts are adamant, however, that their appeal arises from a genuine sense of grievance about Wednesday night alone.

"This course of action was proposed by Sergejus and by another of our directors, Liutauras Varanavicius, and I’m in agreement with it," the Hearts chairman, George Foulkes, said last night.

"I’m in Dundee for the Labour Party conference, but no-one has talked to me about politics - everybody wanted to talk about the penalty incident on Wednesday night.

"A lot of people have said to me - and this is them talking, not me - that there has been talk for a long time about Old Firm bias, but all of them said they had never seen anything so astonishing as Wednesday night."

Despite what those others were saying to him, Foulkes said he was not accusing anyone of such bias. "We need to investigate all the circumstances and consider what took place. It would be wrong to impute any motives at this stage or make any particular suggestions."

Fedotovas added that in calling for an inquiry Hearts were not condoning either Mikoliunas or spectators who threw objects on to the pitch.

Taken from the Scotsman

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