It turns out that Tony McGlennan, the SFA Compliance Officer, actually still exists.
I had run a Twitter poll earlier in the week comparing McGlennan's apparent disappearance to the fates of Spinal Tap's cursed drummers. Unfortunately for Mixu Paatelainen, McGlennan has not in fact spontaneously combusted, or choked on someone else's vomit (if you haven't seen the film, you really should). The lawyer has decided to pull up Dundee United's Finnish boss for making gestures at Dundee fans sat behind him during the derby.
You see, Mixu - having dealt with 90 minutes of dog's abuse - celebrated his side's comeback from two down by cupping his ears to them, and then giving the gesture that is universally translated as "get it right up you". Personally, I thought it was hilarious; it reminds me of the Only An Excuse sketch where a bunch of fans (also Dundee supporters, coincidentally) give Neil Lennon horrendous abuse and then all simultaneously react with horror and offence when the Northern Irishman responded with a middle finger.
However, McGlennan clearly doesn't share my warped sense of humour. He seems determined to now clamp down on managers for stepping even slightly out of line. Derek McInnes was recently cited after Aberdeen's win at Tannadice - his crime was getting sent to the stand for having the temerity to point out that Bobby Madden's decision to book Graeme Shinnie for diving, when he should have either given what was a stonewall penalty or let play continue with an advantage (for Aberdeen scored from the loose ball).
McInnes got off. Cowdenbeath's Colin Nish may not be so lucky after he was sent to the stand during the Fife derby...though it's not clear why Dunfermline's manager and assistant manager, who also received the same fate, have not been cited. Go back a few months, and you have Caley Thistle's John Hughes getting a one match ban after he heavily criticized the performance of Andrew Dallas, who has inherited his father's name and self-confidence but sadly none of his refereeing ability.
So managers need to watch out. Do anything other than lean on the side of the dugout with a glum expression and arms folded, and McGlennan will be all over you like a rash. Players, on the other hand, need not worry.
Do you remember the days when Peter Pawlett couldn't belly flop in the box without receiving a two game ban, when Lee McCulloch couldn't stamp on a defenseless opponent without being dragged to Hampden, when Jim Goodwin wasn't able to get away with attempting to commit Grievous Bodily Harm on a football pitch? Now, were Goodwin actually able to get a game for St. Mirren, he could probably hack at an opposing striker with a machete and avoid punishment so long as the officials missed it.
So much for retrospective punishments. A fortnight ago Motherwell's Scott McDonald elbowed Coll Donaldson of Dundee United flush in the face; referee Crawford Allan missed it, but BT Sport's cameras didn't, and replayed the incident so often that you'd have thought that Chris Sutton had some sort of personal vendetta against the Australian forward. And yet McDonald received nothing from the SFA; he was free to play the following week against Aberdeen where, ironically, he was a victim of an equally vicious elbow. On this occasion, the referee did see it (he could hardly miss it!) and Barry Robson was dismissed.
Divers are getting away with it again too. Ross Draper escaped any sort of censure after winning a penalty against Aberdeen on live telly by suddenly but temporarily losing the use of his legs. Hibernian's League Cup semi-final win came partly because Liam Henderson conned the officials into giving a penalty; again, no action.
In fact, the only player I can think of who has got banned this season was Henderson's teammate Fraser Fyvie...whose crime was to hold his face after being barged in the chest by Rangers' Andy Halliday so that the Gers midfielder would be unfairly sent off.
This could, I suppose, be a change in policy that wasn't made public. After all, the Compliance Officer's job is a thankless one. He's not blessed with multiple camera angles of every incident at every game, nor with the time/resources to go through 540 minutes of Premiership football every weekend. Previous accusations of 'Trial by Sportscene' where a player would only be pulled up if the incident was shown in the BBC highlights, were not unreasonable. It could be argued that the standards have to be the same for everyone...though the successful use of TV evidence in other sports such as rugby shows up that argument as a rubbish one.
But it could be that he, and his paymasters, were well and truly spooked by the infamous Josh Meekings incident last April. Whilst there was little doubt that the Caley Thistle defender's handball on the goalline should have resulted in a penalty and a red card, McGlennan's attempt to get the Englishman a retrospective ban, which would have prevented him from playing in the Scottish Cup Final, were cack-handed to say the least. There was no precedent for such a decision, and it seemed an awful coincidence that Celtic had raised an absolute stink about it. When it was thrown out, the press described it as 'a humiliation', which wasn't far off the mark.
Was this one embarrassment too far for McGlennan? Judging by his lack of action this season, quite possibly.
Or maybe the SFA have made a conscious decision to roll back retrospective punishments. Either way, the message seems to be the following: managers need to shut up and play nice, but players can do anything they damn well please, as long as the officials have their backs turned. I can't say it's a message that I'm especially happy with.
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.