I’ve never been one to subscribe to the viewpoint that referees are corrupt and favour one team over another. I think to feel as such is a dangerous opinion and one which can have a negative impact on your match day experience, I mean such a feeling of corruption isn’t healthy is it? So when the Scottish top flight were forced into using emergency referees seven years ago, the game was not shown in a healthy light at all and it didn’t do the image of our game any good either, that it was one club and one club only who caused that situation hasn’t helped matters since.
I suppose every football fan comes away from their match day experience feeling aggrieved about something or another, it’s part of football after all. The match review chit chat, as you come away from the ground, is always at the fore front and the referee’s part in the match is never far from the major talking points. This season I feel that there has barely been a match day experience where we haven’t left a match, involving Rangers, where the referee hasn’t been at the centre of such discussions.
So having said the above, that feelings of doom and conspiracy theory isn’t healthy, I am going to look at decisions this season involving Rangers. The season started with an away trip to Motherwell, a hard fought 1-2 victory which immediately had the Rangers support discussing the match officials. Louis Moult had the centre of this particular incident, cautioned for an elbow to the face of a Fabio Cardoso he then avoided any further action when a shocking two foot scissor challenge left Graeme Dorrans hapless shortly after Gers second goal. As we will highlight, the fact that referee Bobby Madden choose to not even speak with Moult was bizarre to say the least. Still Rangers weren’t punished and not a lot was made of it.
Onto the following week and Rangers lost 2-3 to Hibernian at home in what’s possibly the most abject referee performance to date, John Beaton took things to a whole new level with a catalogue of horrific incidents. Failing to deal with Anthony Stokes several times it became almost farcical as the player was allowed to wrestle James Tavernier to the ground by the throat after only 7 minutes, the result was a caution for both. Stokes then has his hands round Ryan Jacks throat for the Rangers man to end up with a Red card, Stokes part in the melee ignored despite pictures showing whistler Beaton looking right at it. Rangers Graeme Dorrans is cautioned for reacting to the original challenge, however the Hibs player Slivka once again avoids even a talking too. Dylan McGeouch is cautioned during this and is then allowed to commit another 5 fouls and is not even spoken too, let alone shown another caution, this included cynically taking out Eduardo Herrera as Rangers looked to break. The laughable booking for Alfredo Morelos as Darren McGregor hauled him down by the neck summed a woeful day for Beaton and he has not refereed another Rangers game since and hopefully never will. Ryan Jack would later have his red card correctly rescinded.
Rangers then drew 0-0 at home to Hearts with a perfectly valid goal being chopped off for offside against Kenny Miller, who was clearly onside. Rangers then travelled to Ross County were a horrific elbow to the face of Kenny Miller only resulted in a caution from Craig Thomson for Countys skipper Andrew Davies. Like Moult before him, early indications were that it was open season on Rangers players. As Rangers lost at home to Celtic, Alfredo Morelos was denied a stick on penalty with the teams level at 0-0, you can’t help but wonder if it was at the other end would it have been given? Recent decisions would indicate almost certainly. So what amount of points dropped was now deliberately affected by officiating? Even more troubling was how much others were gaining whilst Rangers seemed to get nothing at all.
The very following week at Hamilton, Whistler Andrew Dallas sent off Ryan Jack for two fouls within minutes during a 1-4 Rangers win. When you consider the amount of challenges McGeouch put in weeks earlier on a caution, you can’t help but wonder where exactly the consistency levels are at. Only two games later Rangers lost to Motherwell at Hampden where Fabio Cardoso received a broken nose in an atrocious elbow from Motherwell’s Ryan Bowman, Bowman wasn’t even spoken too and it has cost Fabio Cardoso two months of his season, that defeat also arguably cost Pedro Caixinha his job.
Once again Ryan Jack was at the centre of things as Rangers were given a penalty in the next game, a home draw with Kilmarnock. With 89 minutes on the clock Rangers won the penalty kick and it took an extraordinary 6 minutes for the kick to be taken, during which Ryan Jack was ordered off in an incident with Kirk Broadfoot in which the former Rangers man simulated a head butt. Unsurprisingly this red was overturned for the second time, what was bizarre though is referee Alan Muir deemed the incident only a caution before the fourth official overturned that and gave a red. Equally as bizarre though was the penalty given in 89 minutes and taken in 95, Kilmarnock equalised immediately in 95 minutes with Full time coming on 97 minutes, the 6 minutes injury time vanishing into fresh air considering how long the kick took to be taken. Of course Ryan Jack was not there to defend any Kilmarnock break and more points dropped for Rangers in which officiating was at the centre of the result. Graeme Dorrans was also taken off injured, in a crude tackle from behind, which also went without punishment from Muir. The player hasn’t been seen since and has also cost him 6 weeks to date of his Rangers career.
Fast forward to yesterdays game at Pittodrie and Wullie Collum was once again at the centre of things as Rangers were reduced to 10 men once again. Ryan Jack again sent off for the fourth time in 4 months as a Rangers player. Having won the ball Jack caught Stevie May in the follow through resulting in the ref immediately showing red, in a move many pundits have described as laughable and odds on to be overturned. What is clear is that Collum couldn’t wait to show Jack the red card charging over with apparent enthusiasm missed when it came to Rangers players being left in a heap. What is equally as evident is that horrible tackles on James Tavernier and Jason Holt by Aberdeen duo McLean and Shinnie weren’t deemed to be reds, although just as ‘bad’ as any tackle Jack made. Shinnie was then allowed to make several more fouls and avoid further action, indeed when Rangers players enquired they were shouted down by Collum. Clearly when Ryan Jack is sent off for two fouls at Hamilton, Rangers are entitled to wonder exactly what level of consistency is being applied. Especially when we have seen various incidents ignored by the Compliance officer, including kicking a player in the face whilst down on the grass. Don’t forget, Collum also allowed Partick Thistle’s Ryan Edwards to go right through Ryan Jack at Firhill in another atrocious tackle on a Rangers player, yet quite simply couldn’t wait to red card Jack yesterday.
What is clear for anyone watching Rangers this season is that officiating has played a huge part in our season and that Rangers players are being held under different scrutiny to other players and teams. The fact that incidents above have happened in games Rangers have won shows that there isn’t a cry of conspiracies here, it’s a simple look at decisions involving our team this season. I could go further and highlight favourable decisions other teams have got but it is clear as Rangers sit in second place seven points behind, officiating has greatly impacted on our season.
So what do we do and where do we go from here? Well that’s surely for our club and management to highlight this to the SFA, whilst other clubs have been vocal in shouting for explanations from the Head Referee (most notably Motherwell just last week) our club has remained silent. I appreciate Rangers have a dignified way of dealing with things but perhaps it comes to a point where the club must speak out. After all in a season where our players have suffered injuries keeping them out for months and our players seem to be treated on a different playing field from others, you have to wonder exactly where this is going and what the outcome will be.
Is it utter incompetence? Is it honest mistakes? Is it something more sinister? It is said things balance out over the course of the season and obviously there will be decisions that benefit Rangers, maybe we are just waiting to see them?…..