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Friday's Article - Whistleblowing


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If you're not good enough at your job, you get let go. It's not particularly pleasant, but it's the way business has worked for centuries. The best businesses thrive, the underperformers, lossmakers and inefficient businesses fall by the wayside.

On the face of things then, Charlie Richmond's statements following his retiring from the refereeing game this week, do seem a touch like sour grapes.

Unfortunately for those in power at Hampden, things aren't so black and white – like the block-happy, manifestly-charismatic SFA chief Stewart Regan, there is more than a distinct touch of grey about the circumstances behind Richmond's treatment and departure.

On leaving this week, Charlie Richmond said, “The reason I went is that, in any organisation if you lose the support of decision-makers and some of your colleagues then I think it's time to walk away.", he told STV.

“Apparently I'm not a team player. My interpretation is it means I don't suck up to the right people. Ability has to be there but if you move in the right circles you get the rewards.

“There will be people who walk over the top of others and people who say the right things to get to where they want.

“I’ve no doubt that many refs in this country rise to the top because their face fits and not because of their ability as an official. Are there refs operating who shouldn’t be at the top level? Yes.”

SFA supremo, and I use that term quite wrongly, Stewart Regan refuted these claims in a statement earlier this week. I say statement, it wasn't done at a press conference, it wasn't even a press release from Hampden, the chief of Scottish football felt it necessary to resort to snidey tweets addressed at no-one in particular, but aimed squarely at Richmond.

Regan said, “Referee appointments are based on performance,” he tweeted. “Would prefer to see consistent under performers 'retire' without feeling need to blame others.”

It seems prudent at this point to mention that Charlie is not the first top grade Scottish whistler to retire this season, that dubious honour goes to Steve Conroy.

This might be familiar to Rangers fans, as he was the referee which gave the dubious penalty against Dunfermline earlier in the season, when Sone Aluko went down in the box.

Aluko was later adjudged to have dived and subsequently received a two match ban from the SFA.

Unsurprisingly, this was referee Conroy's last game, as he was not selected for another match for months, leading to his decision to retire from the game.

Somewhat ironically, Steve Conroy was closing in on 100 top flight games as a category one whistler, having refereed both the Old Firm and Edinburgh derbies, so one feels his performances or ability can't have been that bad over the years.

Indeed, Conroy's decision to retire at the time had the top grade referee considering to take legal action against the SFA's refereeing department, according to BBC Scotland.

One does wonder if the reason Conroy was not given another match is because he gave a poor decision which benefitted Rangers hugely in a match, rather than just on the back of an inept performance. It would certainly explain why Iain Brines continues to referee matches – he is an abysmal referee, but almost never gives anything Rangers way.

This is the crucial point that scuppers Regan's claims that performance management of referees comes undone. Unless the following game was a certain referee's last game.

The most recent trip to Fir Park should have made this obvious. Rangers arguably should have had a two man advantage and a penalty given within the first half. Instead, for headbutting Steven Whittaker, Motherwell fullback Tim Clancy only received a yellow card, as did the bewildered Whittaker. Later on, 'well goalkeeper Darren Randolph took out the onrushing Sone Aluko inside the box as he sped past the keeper, yet Brines thought it fitting to book Aluko for diving. Incidentally, the challenge made by Randolph could be heard from the dug-out at the match. Performance-related assessments indeed.

In this week in which has seen Rangers fans unite against the SFA and SPL like no other, it's perhaps unsurprising that the majority of bears have taken up an anti-Scottish football stance. The hugely inappropriate, if not to say outright damaging, timing of yesterday's proposed rule changes which seems to be nothing more than an attempt to penalise Rangers further, or kick us when we're down – whichever terms suits you best – has angered almost every bear with an internet connection, and many more beside.

Without seeking to embrace an east-end style conspiracy, the presence of Regan as SFA chief after Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell suggested he apply for the position, has been a source of much consternation and suspicion from the Rangers fanbase. Cronyism, one of the accusations insinuated by Richmond above, once again raising its' sneering face over the wall.

You can tweet Stewart Regan and ask him what he thinks about the brazenly unfair treatment Rangers are being handed this season, the dreadful situation where referees are prepared to retire than deal with his organisation, or the generally decaying state of the national game, on @StewartRegan but be prepared to be blocked. He doesn't do answering pertinent questions. Just ask the Rangers Fans Working Group.

Talks of boycotting away games and Scotland internationals seem to have real fire behind them and it's easy to see why fans are upset. Instead of helping one of the two reasons Scottish football exists in its' current format, both the SFA and SPL are doing sod all between them to help the club get back on our feet. Amazingly, that man Regan stormed out of a meeting with a Rangers Fans Working Group, clearly uncomfortable with questions on why the SFA weren't doing anything to help the club, and now the SPL are seeking to punish the club further.

Regan's reasoning that Charlie Richmond's lack of SPL games was based on performance-related assessments and management haven't cut any ice with the media either. Grant Russell of STV, one of the most laidback sports journalists working in the Scottish media said to Regan, “The performance management of Charlie Richmond has led to his resignation. That's not an ideal situation by any stretch.”

It's hard to disagree with that, or the circumstances around the retiral of referee Steve Conroy either. Whatever the name the SFA and Regan wish to put on it, the refereeing situation Scotland is reaching its' nadir. Performance management seems to be less about what you do on the pitch and more about who you're pally with off it.

What I will say though, is that if performance management is a cause for someone resigning from the SFA, someone should point Stewart Regan to the exit door. But maybe Peter Lawwell needs to advise him to walk out the Hampden doors. After all, he told him to walk through them in the first place.

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Here's an extract from the meeting mentioned above between Regan and the supporters group.


The meeting was going along fine for 45 mins discussing our work in the areas of the new legislation, and while he certainly was not as complimentary on our work as other parties have been, the meeting was fairly routine and amicable. SR, on taking up the position would have preferred the UEFA approach to offensive behaviour but is happy to go along the SPL approach for now. We discussed the pros and cons of this and we agreed to take matters further in other meetings.

It was in the second part of the meeting that the atmosphere noticeably changed.

We asked him about the fit and proper person rules and we discussed CW's breaking of these rules. He declared that he knew that CW had broken these rules in October after BBC documentary. That very week they started communications with CW's lawyers but they really got nowhere. SR declared that the breaking of these rules were facts, as proven in the BBC documentary and in follow-up enquiries. He stated that no interview with CW was required. However rather than press charges in October, he has waited until RFC are in administration. We asked why there was a need for Nimmo Smith's enquiry when SR had already declared as fact that CW was guilty, and why there was a 5 hour meeting going on that very same day when SR had just explained why CW was guilty to us in 10 mins. He said that if that was the way we were going to go there was no point continuing the meeting and slammed his notebook shut and stood up to leave.

We were stunned at this petulant outburst but we managed to calm him down and continue.

We went on to ask why the SFA were holding these enquiries at this time, when the info was 5 months old, and when Rangers has no working directors in a position to defend the club. He said there was no defence needed as the facts proved we were guilty of the breaches as charged. A new owner would not change the outcome. He asked him to see the difference between CW and the club. Our club had nobody other than CW to look over these things as he had got rid of all the other Directors and was essentially a one man show. SR stated that as Rangers was a plc, they would be held responsible in law for CW’s actions. We said that this was not a court of law but a football association and there should be a clear difference in the SFA’s actions between CW and RFC. He refused to accept this.

We asked if the SFA would consider putting these cases off until a new owner was in place, or at least the summer, and were told it would make no real difference and SR actually tried to reason that it would be easier to sell the club with all this out the way. We replied that Murray managed to sell the club with the BTC hanging over us, and while that is still not resolved we look like being sold again so we didn't agree with his argument that the resolution of this case would help a sale.

We then asked that as Scotland’s most successful club, most famous club, the club that has provided most players to the national side and put the most money into the SFA coffers, what was the SFA doing to help us? He said he couldn't do anything to help Rangers any more than any other club. We asked again, have you done anything at all to help the club since Feb 14? He said he had taken some calls, perhaps half a dozen, from the administrators and been as helpful as he could be to them. We stated we were aghast that the CEO of the SFA had done nothing in his power to help the country's biggest club, apart from a few phone calls which were no doubt about technicalities and not assistance.

He then asked us what we thought he should have done. We replied that they could have deferred all charges until after the club exited admin, that they could have offered to pay other SFA members what they were owed at this time out of the SFA's vast coffers, and agree repayment with Rangers either out of SFA/SPL prize money or the admin/new owners. Any help would not be forgotten by Rangers fans, and there could certainly have been a deal put in place with the club to guarantee repayment.

He refused to consider these points and again stated that Rangers had breached articles and had to be punished accordingly. We said that there was a PERCEPTION amongst Rangers fans that the SFA were acting unsympathetically and were taking this opportunity to attack the club, and his answers to date at this meeting would not discourage those with this mindset. At this time he again got angry and stood up and said he wouldn't continue with the meeting if we were going to accuse him of bias. When it was pointed out that we were not doing this, merely pointing out that those we were representing would infer this, he sat down again, albeit temporarily.

We then said that there were perhaps up to half a dozen clubs on the verge of admin/bankruptcy and we wanted the lessons of Rangers to be learned and that no fans of other clubs will have to go through what we have went through.

We asked if he could confirm that if a Kilmarnock or Partick Thistle were to follow us into administration, that the SFA would immediately look to its articles to see if they had breached anything and could be charged, and would offer no help to these clubs whatsoever? SR didn't like this question and when he meekly responded that he was there to uphold the articles and take action accordingly, we said we didn't believe that answer was a viable one.

He said he had had enough and stood up and started to walk towards one of our group to shake hands, and angrily remarked 'quell surprise' to nobody in particular.

We were astonished and angered that he would show himself up in this way. That type of childish remark was grossly insulting and indicated that he had thought all along that we would be there to accuse him of bias, despite the fact that he had asked us directly three times if we were accusing him of bias and three times we had said we did not. That clearly was not enough. SR had clearly come into the meeting with a closed mind about what he was about to face, and in hindsight it is abundantly clear he was looking to get out of the meeting ASAP.

SR was out the door and being closely followed by DB when on of our group called after him "away to report back to Lawwell?" It must be made abundantly clear that SR was already through the doorway, with DB close behind when this happened, so to say that that was the final straw is an outright lie, and we therefore call for Mr Regan to withdraw this accusation immediately and to apologise for his behaviour in storming out at a difficult question. Our member apologised to the rest of the group for this outburst but it was in sheer frustration at the indignant way SR had just conducted himself, and to the answers we got from him during the meeting which in our mind clearly state his intentions to hammer Rangers hard for CW’s lies.

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i can see a points deduction looming from them bastards.(be prepared for the aftermath if yous do)

I think the date is 14th May, if we're admin after that, it's 1/3 of the total points this season, I believe.

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