Dundee United blog: The subjectivity of trial by television

Pic: Phil McCloy | Scotzine

Pic: Phil McCloy | Scotzine

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?

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  1. Gary says:

    I’ve said for a while that there should be a panel of 6 or so people getting together the morning after the last game of the weekend.

    They each take one game and choose the issues that need reviewed. Then as a group they review incidents.

    Might have a lot of punishment dished out but it’s likely to stop fairly swiftly after it. It’s the only fair way.

  2. bob says:

    Im afraid this decision stinks of bias and unfortunately its the same old story! !!….no way were Celtic ever going to be looked at!! Lennon running on the pitch st h-t to abscond tbe ref: goes unpunished and Browns tackle was a career ender had Armstrong not been quick enough to avoid!! Stokes dive and moving the ball back to gain an unfair advantage once again goes unpunished! ! The Scottish game is F***ed and the Celtic run SFA are at the forefront.

  3. Dave says:

    All I can say is absolutely spot on. I’d like to find out by what process the league powers decide to review what incidents the referee missed. Is it simply down to what tv chooses to show? That can’t continue like that.

  4. I agree. Totally unfair! Gunning was in the wrong, yes, but is it right that he alone is singled out for punishment? Of course not. There is no natural justice in that. I am of the opinion that Dufc and other major football clubs in Scotland, (excluding the old firm), should resign their affiliation to the sfa in protest (not just at this but at the constant loading of the dice in the old firms favour) and apply to play in the English league. Even starting at the bottom tier, financially they would be better off ultimately assuming promotion up the leagues. And why not? There is a proper fair league structure there with genuine sporting integrity and I’m absolutely certain fans would turn out in their numbers to see it. Why, after all, would fans pay to watch a competion that is anything but, except in name only. That being the spl. Well, the answer to that is blindingly obvious. They don’t. The people of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee largely don’t and won’t pay good money to watch a stage managed rigged farce. And notably, the tv companies won’t and don’t pay too much for it either. So, Old Firm, over to you. Restore genuine sporting integrity to our national sport or continue to watch it go down the pan.

  5. Pete Swift says:

    Also, if this is being done from tv footage, what about incidents that happen off camera, how are they vetted or judged, but yet the whole crowd could have seen it? The whole system is flawed.

  6. Mike says:

    I nearly 100% agree, only point I would question is that this IS a pro-Celtic movement. Or is there another reason why the majority of these inconsistencies, ‘selective’ and completely subjective incidents favour Celtic (and Rangers when they were a big team).
    Also, on a side note, how can an “independent” body/organisation select to have an figure from one of their members on their board? How is that a ‘fair representation’?

  7. Arabroad says:

    I really think United should fight this and also sue the person who put the highlights together. You have to assume in this situation that the person editing the highlights thrives in being able to tell the story the way they want it to be told. If I were them I would take a stand and play Gunning through his ban. The SFA will definitly not have any ruling in regards to this as they only react and create rules as they go along. I hope United have their own copy of the game and send the other incidents in and demand that unless Brown is also suspended with a red card (which is not too late by the way), that they will see them in court.

  8. Adam says:

    I’m a Utd supporter but I think the club are being extremely childish here. Is there any evidence that the decision was influenced by the BBC’s highlights? The whole game was live on Sky.
    Perhaps Brown’s lunge was not challenged because the referee saw it and didn’t deem it worthy of action?
    If I got stopped by a spot-check on the way out of the self check-out at Sainsburys and they discovered that I hadn’t paid for a Richard Madeley load of wine, is it any defence that they didn’t catch ALL the shoplifters?
    United are acting as paranoid as some other people I could mention. We’ll be looking for “clarity” next. Get over it.

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