London Hearts Supporters Club

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

Dallas report puts Hearts' officials right on the spot


CHRIS Robinson, George Foulkes and sundry other so-called protectors of Hearts’ welfare will doubtless be shocked to learn that Hugh Dallas’ report on last week’s match against Rangers makes no reference to the contentious penalty kick which brought the Ibrox side their stoppage-time winner.

In the event of those fevered minds at Tynecastle cooling long enough to give the matter rational thought, they would quickly reach the conclusion that this is not in the slightest way surprising.

They would come to realise that the referee would consider the awarding of the penalty - no matter how controversial the circumstances in which the decision was made may appear to others - to be as unremarkable as any other taken in the course of the game, such as signalling a goal when Mark Burchill scored Hearts’ equaliser.

Into the "special mention" category in Dallas’s report, of course, falls the subsequent behaviour of Saulius Mikoliunas, the Lithuanian winger whose barge on the linesman, Andy Davis, and volley of profanities at both officials brought him two red cards.

The omission of the granting of the penalty kick itself underlines not only the routine nature of the incident in terms of the referee’s perspective on the match, but emphasises the preposterousness of suggestions that the game should be replayed.

The actions by the Hearts chairman and the former chief executive are difficult to fathom. As an experienced politician, immersed in legalities, it seems astonishing that Foulkes could endorse a protest that subverts the integrity of Davis, suggestive of some sinister motivation on the part of the linesman.

Even the wording of their intention to lobby the SFA is absurd. Talk of questioning the integrity of the decision rather than of the man himself is, like the entire affair, an embarrassment to Hearts. The decision is inseparable from the man who took it.

Robinson’s contribution to the controversy is baffling. As a vice-president of the SFA, he is certainly aware of the impossibility of a successful plea for a replay.

Robertson and Foulkes are clearly convinced that Davis made an error of judgment and, if their sense of injustice was as inflamed as it appears to have been, they could have approached the SFA with a request to assess the linesman’s competence. That is a long way removed from indicting him on the grounds of integrity, or from demanding a replay of the match.

It would not be the first time a referee or linesman had been upbraided for a poor performance, but precedents indicate that a reprimand - or even disciplinary measures - for Davis would be unlikely.

It will be recalled that John Rowbotham was censured by the association’s referee committee for failing to take appropriate action against the persistent misbehaviour of Paul Gascoigne in a match at Ibrox. The Rangers player was seen on television to have committed a series of offences, several of which in themselves merited an ordering-off.

Around the same time, Jim McCluskey was also censured for missing an incident in a match involving St Johnstone in which a player kicked another in the stomach. But it was the case of George McGuire which probably did more than any other to instil in the SFA due carefulness in the matter of holding match officials to account over a single identifiable blunder.

McGuire was removed from the list of referees because the assessor in the stands during the relevant match considered he was guilty of gross negligence in missing a significant incidence of delinquency.

Far from meek acceptance of his punishment, McGuire took the association to court - and won his case. He was reinstated, but at Grade 2, considerably lower than the level at which he had previously been operating.

The irony about McGuire was that he left refereeing not long after - he had obviously taken legal action as a matter of principle - but returned to the SFA as a council member, representing the East of Scotland FA, and, as recently as the season before last, served on the referee committee.

Referees and their assistants these days are assessed over a period, with any proposed downgrading based on cumulative performances. It is, therefore, very unlikely that Davis would be charged with incompetence on the basis of his decision at Tynecastle.

Most importantly of all, of course, is the question of whether he actually did make a mistake. Whatever bluster may have emanated from every quarter with a vested interest in the incident, no amount of scrutiny of the video of the moment is sufficient to bring a guilty verdict, beyond reasonable doubt.

Taken from the Scotsman

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