Flanagan elbow wasn’t brutal enough to warrant a ban

Rangers, Scottish FA

With the season now behind us and everyone looking ahead to what their club will do in the summer transfer window, the Scottish FA once again showed us why their organisation is not fit for purpose.

Two weeks after Rangers full back Jon Flanagan won his hearing, after being charged for elbowing Celtic skipper Scott Brown in the 2-0 win over the Scottish champions at Ibrox, the Scottish FA finally published their ruling.

Whether it was a ploy to wait until everyone moved on from the decision, which Celtic labelled as a ‘huge embarrassment for Scottish Football’ or they are just that slow in publishing disciplinary hearing rulings due to the huge amount of bureaucracy within Hampden Park, the Scottish FA have once again proved to football fans that they are a shower of incompetent fools and not fit for the office that they hold.

Despite video evidence and a plethora of analysis from ex-pros and pundits alike commenting on the Flanagan elbow as being a clear red card – the Scottish FA’s ruling found that his elbow on Scott Brown was not brutal enough to warrant a ban.

The Scottish FA ruling stated that three former officials assessed the incident and agreed that it warranted a sending off – hence his two game ban – but a fast-track tribunal overruled that decision because it did not involve ‘excessive force, brutality or resulting in serious injury’.

The tribunal rejected the Compliance Officer Clare Whyte’s belief that the incident was ‘savage, ruthless or deliberately violent’ and further rejected her claims that Brown had been struck in the face – insisting instead that contact was made with the’ chest/neck area of the opponent’.

Flanagan claimed that he was ‘merely fending off’ the Celtic captain as he ‘stood his ground’ – despite the former Liverpool full back clearly elbowing Brown off the ball, as the former Scotland skipper tried to get on the end of a corner kick.

The panel concluded: “The referee saw the incident in question, and, notwithstanding that he did not see the actual point of contact, he saw sufficient to assess brutality and decided that the action of the player was reckless….the evidence did not meet the ‘exceptional’ test in judicial panel protocol 3.3.”

So not only did the referee not see the actual point of contact, he seemingly saw enough to assess the brutality of the elbow. How does that work? He didn’t see the contact, saw Brown being knocked to the ground and judged that ‘ah it wasn’t violent or brutal enough!’.

Only in Scottish football and in front of the Scottish FA tribunals would such a defence stand up. The same tribunal set precedent for Alfredo Morelos to escape numerous instances of violent conduct for kicking, punching and elbowing fellow professionals throughout the season – and now they are stating that a player needs to be brutally assaulted on the pitch before they even consider a retrospective ban.

Maybe Flanagan should have asked his lawyer to have the Scottish FA to rule on his conviction for assaulting his girlfriend – although I suspect they would have let him off with that also as it wasn’t brutal enough!

There were clear threats made towards Scott Brown in the aftermath of the 2-1 win at Celtic Park, when three Rangers players attacked Scott Brown on the pitch – including Ryan Kent who brutally assaulted the Celtic captain with a punch in the middle of the field all because Brown didn’t give him the ball back.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard implied that his players would be getting their own back on Brown at Ibrox and Flanagan did just that.

Now the Scottish FA are once again giving carte blanche to Rangers players to violently assault opposition players – in particular a former Scotland captain and decorated professional footballer – because it didn’t result in serious injury or wasn’t a brutal assault in their eyes.

Maybe at the next hearing the tribunal could re-enact the incident themselves with one elbowing the other and then calling it not violent or brutal enough.

Will it take a player getting seriously assaulted on the pitch for the Scottish FA to realise that their whole system is not fit for purpose – or will it take a player, whose career has been cut short due to a violent assault, suing them to make them sit up and realise their brutality threshold is beyond reprehensible?

Andy Muirhead

Andy Muirhead

Andy Muirhead is the former editor of Scotzine and producer of the Scottish football podcast, The Final Whistle. He has written for ESPN, Huffington Post, BT Sport, and The Morning Star, with work also featured in the Daily Record, the Scotsman, Daily Mail, Daily Express and numerous fan websites.

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