London Hearts Supporters Club

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33 of 048 Mark Burchill 87 L SPL H

Calls for SFA inquiry will fall on deaf ears and end in ridicule

Heart of Midlothian:
Alan Campbell says the Tynecastle club’s actions after their controversial match with Rangers were not thought through

PHIL Anderton, the newly-appointed Hearts chief executive, was not consulted on the decision to ask for an SFA inquiry into the “integrity of the decision” which handed Rangers an injury time penalty at Tynecastle on Wednesday night.

Anderton, unveiled as the successor to Chris Robinson on Thursday, is on holiday and does not take up his post until March 21. Nevertheless, it seems incredible the Hearts board did not clear the inquiry call with him before making it public.

This, coupled with a failure to take legal advice, suggests Hearts plunged into their unprecedented action without fully thinking through the consequences. Either they have unreported evidence from remarks made by match officials that something untoward took place, or they have invited ridicule by asking for an inquiry which the SFA will witheringly reject.

It has emerged that the man behind the inquiry call was interim chief executive Sergejus Fedotovas. The earnest Lithuanian revealed the idea had come to him late on Thursday night, and by the morning he was convinced it was the course of action to take. Board members, including chairman George Foulkes, were asked approve it, allowing Hearts to say later it was a collective decision.

Foulkes, though, might have been grateful he had a bone fida reason for not sitting beside Fedotovas when he announced the move in Glasgow on Friday. Instead, it was Robinson – an SFA board member – who was alongside his younger colleague as they faced a sceptical press pack.

Later, after the cameras had stopped rolling, Robinson attempted again to justify Hearts’ bizarre decision.

“I’ve been in football a long time, and I’ve never seen such a reaction from our supporters,” said a man who should know, having been their target for years. “It (the penalty) did lead to a lot of mayhem and chaos at the end, and that was well beyond what I’ve seen at Tynecastle in my 10 years.”

Robinson, who conceded it was a “big ask” for the SFA to grant the inquiry, continued: “We don’t want to be spending huge numbers of hours going through video tapes trying to get our fans arrested for throwing coins. We do everything possible to stop that happening. Our security people did very well containing the situation, because there were fans running around all over the place.

“We just feel that there’s something not right. There’s absolute discontent amongst our supporters about this. They’re telling us that they cannot rationalise that decision. We ourselves can’t. We’ve asked the SFA if they can rationalise it.”

What Robinson and Fedotovas refused to admit, despite being asked the question in a dozen forms on Friday, is that by questioning the “integrity of the decision” they had in fact challenged the integrity of linesman Andy Davis, who convinced referee Hugh Dallas that Rangers should be given their dubious penalty.

In another odd twist to an already bizarre tale, Fedotovas was genuinely unaware that Davis had also been instrumental in another decision which went against Hearts at Ibrox in November. On that occasion the Tynecastle club claimed Stephen Hughes had put the ball out of play for a goal-kick before crossing for Nacho Novo to score the winning goal.

The official, who is a police constable, was due to officiate in the calmer climes of Stirling Albion against Forfar yesterday. On Thursday, in what has become an intolerable abuse of his privacy, details of where he lives were posted on a Celtic supporters’ website.

Robinson, to his credit, urged fans not to take out their venom on Davis. “Absolutely, totally,” he said. “We don’t want anybody believing that this is a situation where there should be any retribution or abuse.”

Yet, the irony of the media derision hurled at Hearts is that there is probably not a single non-Old Firm fan in Scotland who doesn’t believe, rationally or irrationally, that Rangers and Celtic are the regular beneficiaries of match-turning decisions.

The Lithuanians who have bought Hearts – and owner Vladimir Romanov would certainly have been involved in the inquiry decision – have now taken that thought process a stage further.

Unless they have evidence they are holding back, the call for the inquiry will be turfed out when the SFA’s discliplinary committee meets on March 15. What it has demonstrated, though, is that the new Tynecastle regime won’t take perceived slights lying down.

Even Robinson conceded that the sport would descend into anarchy if every club called for an inquiry when dubious penalties were awarded. But by making such a fuss, Hearts have made a point – one more than the penalty decision deprived them of on Wednesday.

Both the club and Lithuanian midfielder Saulius Mikoliunas, who received two red cards after altercations with Davis and Dallas, are likely to be hammered when the SFA consider Wednesday night’s events, which included coins being thrown. That, rather than an inquiry, is likely to be occupying Anderton when he takes up his post a fortnight tomorrow.

Taken from the Sunday Herald

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