STEWART ROBERTSON spoke to RangersTV today to call for clarity on the disciplinary process in Scotland.
Q: Stewart, it’s fair to say the disciplinary procedures are creating a great deal of confusion. Why has this happened?
A: “There has been a change to the rules, but there has also been a change in the way the rules have been interpreted.
“That has caused a lot of inconsistency which is causing the confusion. I think what we need to do is to bring all the clubs together to see how we can change the system to improve the image of the game as there is no doubt it is having a negative impact, which isn’t good for any of us.”
Q: Can you explain how the process works?
A: “What would appear to happen is there are incidents from the weekend which are reported to the Compliance Officer.
“She will then look at those incidents, have a discussion with the referee from the match, and subject to his comment, it will then go to a panel of three former ‘Grade One’ referees.
“They, in turn, will look at the incident. If they agree it was either right or wrong, that will take the process down one of two paths. If they agree the decision was correct, then they stick with the decision.
“If they agree it was incorrect, they will then issue a notice of complaint to a player, and the club then has the ability to either accept or deny that charge.
“Afterwards, you then go to a hearing, and from there, you sit in front of a judicial panel of three members who will then take the ultimate decision on what should happen to the player.”
Q: It seems then the games are being re-refereed. Is that something the club agrees with?
A: “This season it certainly feels like that. If you go back to last season and previous seasons, it was only incidents of violent conduct or off-the-ball incidents the referees didn’t see that would be reconsidered.
“What we are now getting ourselves into is a situation where many more incidents are being looked at and we are effectively re-refereeing the games.
“That is placing intolerable pressures on the referees, which is then placing pressures on the compliance system and the disciplinary system.
“We feel we should now be looking to go back to what the system was previously where it was violent conduct and off-the-ball incidents that should be reviewed only.
Q: Do you and the club then feel this has altered since the new compliance officer was recruited?
A: “There is no doubt. Clare came in at the start of this season and there is no doubt things have been dealt with differently this year.
“Some of the incidents which have been reviewed this year wouldn’t have been reviewed last year. That is leading to the confusion – there is much more inconsistency and it definitely feels as if we are re-refereeing games.
“It also feels as though the incidents, which are being highlighted on the television at the weekend, are the incidents which are being picked up by the compliance officer on a Monday.
“I’ve heard the expression ‘trial by TV’ or ‘trial by Sportscene’ and that really seems to be the way it is going.
“Now, we understand complaints come in from all sorts of avenues but the correlation between what is shown on television at the weekend and what is then being reviewed on a Monday and the notice of complaints which then appear is very high.”
Q: So why do you feel the Compliance Officer is doing this?
A: “I don’t know is the honest answer. I assume it is her interpretation of the rules which are there, but I don’t think there is any doubt – and talking to various clubs, and I think this is where we need all the clubs to speak with one voice and at least get around the table and debate what should change – there is definitely a change.
“We don’t know why that has happened but we believe we should be looking to go back to the previous system.”
Q: How are they finding these incidents then? You mention Sportscene?
A: “We understand incidents are highlighted from all sorts of sources. The correlation with Sportscene is obviously very high.
“We, as a club, have our own issues with the BBC Scotland. BBC have refused to attend Ibrox since November 2015 – and the dispute has gone on much longer than that.
“They recently asked to come to Ibrox, but only to cover the matches. They would not be interviewing our manager and our players.
“Now, if they are treating us differently in that respect, are there other areas where they are also treating Rangers differently in terms of the incidents which we are seeing being highlighted at the weekend.
“You only have to look at the Alfredo Morelos incident in the Old Firm game, where they seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time examining Alfredo’s actions, but at no time at all did they look at any other actions from that game with the same scrutiny.
“Morelos was then effectively vilified for three weeks on various BBC platforms. So you have to question if they are treating us differently – they have confirmed in writing that they are treating us differently from every other Premiership club – where else are they treating us differently?
Q: Going back to the Compliance Officer, what would you like to see done that might end the uncertainty and the complaints?
A: “I think there are a couple of things we could do. I think we could go back to the interpretation of the rules we had last season where it was violent conduct and off-the-ball incidents in-essence that were being re-reviewed.
“That way, you are not re-refereeing games and you are not going back to every incident and re-refereeing and examining it in minute detail.
“You’re not having television pundits effectively setting the agenda of what should be reviewed on a Monday morning.
“I also think we need to look at VAR. It is the direction of travel in football and we need to be looking at it seriously to give the referees all the assistance we can.
“I heard a stat the other day it takes decisions from 93 per cent accurate to 98 per cent accurate. We are not going to get 100 per cent accuracy but it is going to help, and if we have tools and technology which can help us let’s use them and let’s take the pressure off the referees.
“That in itself will help them to referee the games better.”
Q: The club has been in contact with the Scottish FA – have you heard back from them yet?
A: “We have had informal contact from the SFA and we wrote to them last week requesting we have a detailed review of the disciplinary system.
“I am sure they will be in touch informally with us but from the discussions we have had informally, I know there are a lot of other clubs who have similar views on how they system is working at the moment and the inconsistencies which are being created by the way in which the system is being interpreted.”
Q: You mention other clubs – are you expecting other clubs to join Rangers in pushing for change?
A: “Absolutely. Hibs already said something on Friday with Leeann mentioning it at her press conference.
“In private conversations, I know this is an area of concern for other clubs and it is not good for the game.
“If we can get all the clubs together – and we won’t all agree on every detail – but if we can get the basic framework sorted out then I think you will be in a much better place.”
Q: You also mentioned BBC Scotland. Is there any sign of them returning to Ibrox?
A: “No. They have chosen not to attend. They choose not to come to games and they choose not to interview our players or interview our manager.
“So that is a discussion we have taken up separately with them. We have had numerous discussions with senior personnel at BBC Scotland but we are no further forward in reality.
“Every time we get into a discussion with them, something happens. They are the only organisation I am aware of, and I stand corrected if not, which has had two public apologies from BBC Scotland in the last 12 months.
“We had the Alfredo Morelos incident I have already referred to, we had the Ryan Jack incident where we had a banner showing the decapitated head of Ryan used as an image for a discussion on ticketing, I think.
“So we have had various incidents with the BBC, and it just doesn’t seem to be getting any better with them.
“It has been going on for a long, long time – long before my time – and we have a file two inches thick with correspondence with them.
“Something needs to change to improve that. We have a lot of fans who only access the games through terrestrial television and radio, and it is discriminating against them that they can’t get to hear Rangers coverage.
“They [the BBC] have actually written to us and told us they are treating us differently from other clubs in the Premiership.
“So we need to see that change and we will be dealing with that separately.
“It is important the Compliance Officer isn’t influenced unduly by Sportscene given that background. All we ever want from the BBC is to be treated fairly, in a balanced way and in an accurate way.”