Before I get into the main thrust of this article, I want to make one thing abundantly clear – Gavin Gunning kicked out at Virgil van Dyke during Sunday’s game between Dundee United and Celtic and therefore I think he deserves any punishment that comes his way.
Gunning time and time again lets his hot-headedness get the better of him, and unless he gets that side of his character under control, his career will suffer as a result. As talented as he is, Gavin Gunning is of no use to any manager if he’s permanently sitting in the stands because he can’t control his temper.
Anyway, with that said, something just doesn’t sit right with me about the way he was issued with a notice of complaint by SFA Compliance Director, Vincent Lunny, and it seems as though Dundee United agree.
Why? Because trial by TV is, by its very nature, subjective.
In the same game there are bound to have been other issues that merited red cards that weren’t spotted by the referee also. Indeed, I can think of one specific issue that in my opinion warranted a sending off.
Down at the touchline in front of the George Fox Stand, Scott Brown – days after stamping on an opposition player in the Champions League – lunged in on a United player, both feet off the ground with studs up and missed in a tackle.
Nothing came of it because the player in question managed to get out of the way. The fans cottoned on though and barracked Brown for the remainder of the game.
Nobody was hurt, but they could have been. It was a dangerous challenge, which, on another day and in another area of the park where the player was facing the referee rather than away from him, Brown could have seen red for.
But have any of the media outlets brought this up? No. Has Scott Brown been issued with a notice of complaint? No.
Before anyone suggests it, I’m not claiming a pro-Celtic conspiracy, nor an anti-United one; I’m simply making the point that there are two situations where players should have seen red, and the only one to be issued with a notice of complaint after the fact is the one that both the BBC and STV have focussed on.
Is that fair? I don’t think it is.
And so it raises the question of how these things should work. Gunning’s kick has made the headlines because it was part of the five-minute highlight package the BBC and STV have used.
The creation of the highlights package is – whether they want to accept it or not – subjective. Whether it’s one person who creates it or a dozen, if you cut 94 minutes of action down to five, incidents will get missed out, because a decision has been made that it’s less interesting to watch.
Had Saturday’s game against Celtic ended in a 4-4 draw, there’s no chance Gunning’s kick would have made the highlights and it would have been forever consigned to the cutting room floor, with nobody bothering to raise it.
Similarly, if the same match has included a dodgy penalty decision or an actual red card, I seriously doubt it would have made it as far as being STV’s “Big Call” of the week. Again, had that been the case, Gunning wouldn’t have been issued with a notice of complaint.
And there-in lies the problem.
What are the odds that Vince Lunny sits down and pours over every single frame of every single game to ensure justice is dished out on an equal and meritorious basis?
I’ll owe him an apology if this isn’t the case, but I doubt that he does.
And therefore it’s left up to the judgement of the directors of football matches – the people who decide what is worthy of a replay and what is worth talking about in highlights packages or half or full-time analysis – to decide upon who deserves punishment.
To me, that’s not right, nor is it fair.
Yes, the BBC and STV are stuck with highlights, and they can only discuss what they’ve seen, but should their discussion be the catalyst for bans?
Or should someone objective and independent sit down and be tasked with watching every game, and then from there decide on who and what merits retrospective punishment?
What do you think?