Inverness Caledonian Thistle defender Josh Meekings will be eligible to play in May’s Scottish Cup Final after the one match ban offered for handball was dismissed.
Meekings was issued with a notice of complaint from the Scottish FA compliance officer after he handled a goal bound header from Leigh Griffiths in their 3-2 victory over Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi final.
Tony McGlennan, the Scottish FA compliance officer, had charged Meekings with breaking Disciplinary Rule 200:
Disciplinary Rule 200: In that at the above match you did deny the opposing team an obvious goal scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball
But on Thursday afternoon, an independent judicial panel cleared the English defender to line up against Falkirk in the Scottish Cup Final on May 30th.
According to reports, the panel decided that ‘an honest mistake’ had been made by the officials. Referee Steven McLean had reported that Alan Muir, the goal line assistant, had indicated that the ball had struck the defender’s head.
Inverness chairman Kenny Cameron, was delighted with the decision, he said: “The club is delighted for Josh that the Judicial Panel Tribunal dismissed the complaint brought against him. Josh will now be available for selection for the Cup Final on 30th May 2015 v Falkirk FC.
“The result means that the club can now fully appreciate the achievement of reaching it’s first ever Scottish Cup Final and focus on preparations for Saturdays game versus Aberdeen FC.
“On a personal note, both Josh and I would like to express our gratitude to our legal team from Harper Macleod led by Partner David Kerr who worked tirelessly to ensure a favourable outcome.”
Inverness manager John Hughes had hit out at the Scottish FA over their decision to charge the 22 year old, he commented: “I think the whole of Scottish football, or British football, know there is a real injustice here.
“First and foremost, he shouldn’t be up there in the first place. I am a little bit embarrassed. Scottish football is getting dragged through the mud a little bit and I think there’s a little more to it than we’re seeing.
“You can open up a whole can of worms and, even if it goes in our favour, I don’t think we have heard the end of this.”
Celtic had sent a letter to the Scottish FA asking for answers on why the match officials failed to award a penalty just before half time.
This ‘request for answers’ as well as the charge imposed on Meekings, saw a barrage of criticism aimed at both Celtic and the Scottish FA – despite Celtic perfectly [like any other club]entitled to question the decisions of the match officials through the proper channels. Critics claimed that Celtic had forced the Scottish FA’s hand to charge Meekings – despite the letter clearly only questioning the referee’s part in proceedings rather than calling for a ban to be imposed on the Caley Thistle defender.
As well as the usual suspects in the media and rival supporters rounding on proceedings, FIFA vice president Jim Boyce fired a broadside at the powers-that-be at Hampden.
Speaking to a national newspaper, Boyce said: “This decision to suspend the player is setting a very, very dangerous precedent. I’m surprised it’s happened and I don’t think it’s ever happened anywhere else.
“FIFA allow associations to make their own decisions but if this decision stands and Inverness feel it is unjust they would have every right to bring this matter up with the powers that be at FIFA.
“Obviously I can’t say what decision they would make but the club do have the power to take it to FIFA if they feel it is unjust and I personally do feel it is unjust.
“It’s not just a mess, it’s absolutely ludicrous. I watch football week in week out and see similar incidents all the time. I can understand Celtic’s frustration at feeling they should have had a penalty but the same thing has happened to every club.
“I’m also in favour of using disciplinary evidence if someone deliberately elbows an opponent or goes over the top looking to deliberately injure an opponent. These are different things altogether. But to go through this every time someone handles a ball? To make a decision like this? Maybe I’m being strong here but I do find it astonishing.”
Boyce, who is Head of FIFA’s refereeing committee, suggested that action instead should be taken against the match officials who failed to award Celtic the penalty.
He added: “There were six of them in charge of that match and none of them saw it as a penalty. If the decision was wrong – and I’m not denying it should have been a penalty – then it’s the officials who should be brought to task. If the SFA want to take action then do what other associations have done and leave those officials out of the next match.
“Situations like this happen week in week out where referees and officials make mistakes. I don’t know if anyone has spoken to the referee – maybe he thinks he didn’t make a mistake – but that’s a different issue altogether.
“In my opinion, if the officials in charge of that semi-final were deemed not to have done their jobs properly then there’s a method to deal with them.
“It’s beyond the cause of anyone to query the referee’s honesty and integrity. That would be a very dangerous thing to do unless they have absolute proof that something is wrong.
“I know some people may think it wasn’t given because it was Celtic but I totally disagree with that. I’d like to think the people in charge of that game were honest people who made an honest mistake.
“Every club has the right to write to the association querying if they are not happy with the performance of a referee. I’m not decrying that right. But if any action is taken then it should be taken against the referee, not against the player.”
A source with knowledge of the Scottish FA disciplinary proceedings earlier informed me: “….it was the only decision the panel could have reached. Any evidence presented could not have proved deliberate handball plus FIFA’s intervention killed the complaint.”