JUST when you thought the Scottish FA’s disciplinary system couldn’t possibly get any more farcical.

The decision by the governing body’s chief executive Ian Maxwell, president Rod Petrie and vice-president Mike Mulraney to intervene in the James Keatings affair at the weekend made sense on several different levels.

If they had discovered that one of the panel members who dismissed Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s appeal against the caution that Keatings received in the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Cup semi-final had failed to consider all of the available evidence then they were correct to declare the ruling invalid and order a new tribunal.

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If they had learned that the judicial panel protocol wasn’t followed to the letter then they were right to rule the outcome incompetent and remove the individual at fault from the pool from which panel members are drawn.

With any luck, justice will be done and the yellow card which Keatings was shown for simulation in the game against the Rangers Under-21 side eight days ago will be rescinded, freeing the forward up to play in the final against Raith Rovers at McDiarmid Park at the end of next month.

The outcry which followed the initial ruling – and even Gary Lineker took to Twitter to express his disbelief – was only to be expected given that video replays clearly showed that Rangers defender Ciaran Dickson had made contact with the Inverness forward.

It will be outrageous if John Robertson’s team are forced to take on John McGlynn’s side without the player whose goal had helped them get there.

But in every other respect this unprecedented move is just staggering. It raises serious and valid questions about the entire disciplinary process in this country. It could very well have sounded the death knell for the current procedures as they stand. Given the deafening clamour that there already was for change, it is hard to see how they can possibly survive.

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First of all, what evidence exactly did the panel member fail to consider? Did he or she even watch back the incident in question? Because even the most cursory of glances at a video replay would have shown conclusively that Keatings didn’t dive. How was a flawed ruling with such major ramifications allowed to be given in the first place?

Furthermore, if the panel didn’t act as they were supposed to in this instance then on how many other occasions in the past has a player been banned or a club fined because of such inexcusable incompetence? And how can clubs now be certain that cases will be dealt with properly going forward? How can future judgements possibly be trusted?

It may very well have emerged that proper guidelines weren’t followed. But there is a definite suspicion here that the negative headlines and adverse publicity prompted the intervention of the Hampden high heid yins. Whatever the truth of the matter is, it has been an almighty mess which has reflected badly on the organisation charged with running the game here.

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A quick scan of the reader comments on this newspaper’s website after the story broke on Saturday summed up the reaction of the Scottish football public to the development. How can they be trusted to have done anything right ever? This is ineptitude pure and simple. Which other tribunals did this member sit on? The astonishment and disgust were clear.

The entire system needs ripped up. It has to be far more straightforward and transparent than is currently the case. Just now it is complicated and confusing. SFA officials who have attempted to explain their inner workings to me and a fair few other journalists in the past have given out erroneous information and later come back and apologised for their mistakes. If they don’t understand it then what chance does anybody else have?      

There is no doubt that many clubs are happy to demonise the SFA in order to deflect attention from their own shortcomings on and off the park and spare themselves from the ire of their supporters. It shouldn’t be forgotten that it is an independent panel, not the compliance officer, chief executive or president, that ultimately makes the final judgement. The governing body’s members, too, have all agreed on how appeals are dealt with and players punished retrospectively. 

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But Maxwell, who was last week informed in no uncertain terms that the Premiership clubs have no confidence in the status quo, Petrie and Mulraney would do well to appoint a working party to examine how the system can be overhauled and then move swiftly to implement their recommendations in time for the start of the 2020/21 campaign.

Because at the moment, a time when Celtic and Rangers are boosting the reputation of the game in this country with their European exploits, Scottish football is a laughing stock.