ONE question has dominated the Scottish football agenda more than any other this week: Do you think it was a red? You may have asked it yourself. And if you have, the chances are you may have had varying responses.

Graeme Shinnie’s tackle on Ross County’s Jack Baldwin last Friday night, in real time, wasn’t even deemed a foul by referee Euan Anderson. When summoned to take a closer look on the VAR screen, he adjudged the Aberdeen midfielder to have followed through recklessly and sent him off.

To catch such instances, you may say, is precisely what VAR is there for. Furthermore, that by the letter of the law, he deserved to go. You may equally be as likely to say that Shinnie won the ball cleanly, and if you think a player can stop his momentum in such instances, then you can’t have played the game. Therein though, rather lies the point.

The real question probably shouldn’t centre upon whether it was a red card or not, and this is where Aberdeen’s real bone of contention now lies - that the very existence of the debate itself that has raged since last weekend has categorically proven their appeal was more than justified.

READ MORE: Rangers boss Michael Beale backs Aberdeen over Graeme Shinnie ban

That’s not to say the SFA’s appeal panel was wrong in dismissing their claim. Or, frankly, what percentage chance Aberdeen may have felt they had of the panel coming down on their side of the argument. The point is, as PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart explains, there was surely a chance it might have.

The PFA released a statement earlier this week supporting Aberdeen in their outrage at the additional game’s suspension that Shinnie must now serve, with both parties in disbelief that the claim could be interpreted as ‘having had no chance of success’, as the SFA’s written explanation of the decision has since explained.

“I was under the impression that for an appeal to have no prospect of success, then that has to be a high bar,” Wishart said.

“It would have to be very, very obvious that a decision was never going to be overturned. But that surely cannot apply to this particular case.

“It is a matter of opinion, some people are saying it is a red card, and some people are saying it isn’t, and where it is a matter of opinion, I think a player must be allowed to challenge.

“Not only that, they should be able to appeal without the fear of losing yet another game to suspension or losing the deposit for their club.

“It is a question of natural justice, because people will be put off appealing even when they feel justified in doing so because they fear the extra game ban.

“Graeme Shinnie would have trusted his club - who would have had legal advisors - and they will have said that his appeal had a chance of success. They wouldn’t have gone forward with it otherwise. Then he ends up with the extra game suspension.

“That, for me, is totally wrong, and it is not in the interests of natural justice. In cases like this, there is surely a valid reason for an appeal.

“It is a real hammer blow for Aberdeen with the player now having a long suspension. He hadn’t actually been sent off in his career before the two recent reds he’s picked up. I think it is very harsh.

“For a player to pick up an extra game’s suspension for having the audacity to appeal something like this, I think it’s completely unfair on the player.”

The Herald:

The other grounds that the extra game can be added to a player’s punishment stem from a deterrent written into the rules that was designed to stop clubs from gaming the appeals system. So, if a club wanted an important player to be available for a crunch game they would otherwise be suspended for, they might submit an appeal knowing that the panel would be unable to convene prior to the fixture.

But Wishart cannot fathom why such a rule is still in place when there are now fast-track tribunals.

“I understand why the rule was brought in at the time,” he said.

“It made sense to punish appeals that clearly had no reasonable chance of success.

“I was involved in the process back then, and even though I disagreed with it, I could see the logic in trying to stop clubs using the appeals process tactically.

“We didn’t have the fast-track system back in those days that we have now, so clubs would use it to their advantage. If they wanted a suspended player to play in the game the following Saturday, for example, you would sometimes see appeals going in to allow them to do that.

“With the fast-track system now in place, there is no advantage to a club in putting in such an appeal.

“So, if you take this incident as an example, there is no advantage to be had for Aberdeen in appealing, so I think that rule needs to go.

“There was no game in between the Ross County match and Aberdeen’s next fixture, so how could they be seeking to gain an advantage with the appeal? That’s the point I’ve been making to the SFA for a number of years.

“There is a fast-track system completely designed to avoid this sort of thing.”

READ MORE: Shinnie hit with extended ban after Aberdeen appeal branded frivolous

When Wishart says he has been making such a point to the SFA, you might think that would be in his capacity as a member of the SFA Judicial Panel working group, but his concerns have yet to even make it that far.

The SFA may argue that as Aberdeen had a part in the creation of these rules (their lawyer Laura McMullan sits on both the Rules and Revision working panel and the Judicial working panel, while new chief executive Alan Burrows sits on the SFA Professional Game Board), then they have little reason for complaint when those rules are applied to them.

But Wishart says that the role of stakeholders in shaping the game can often be overstated.

“Quite often you will see comments about this person being involved in a committee or the PFA being involved, but I am one of 20 people on that working group,” he said.

“So, the influence of individuals or individual bodies can be overplayed. It is a working group that makes recommendations to the SFA hierarchy, and it is still the SFA who decides whether to take that through or not.

“I do agree that the clubs could sometimes flex their muscles a little bit more, but this idea that the clubs or the PFA have the divine right to change these things, we don’t. It is still in the hands of the SFA, and I think they could change this situation quite quickly.

“I’ve spoken informally to the SFA about it already, and have been met with the feeling that there is no appetite to change, so at that point you question whether there is really any point taking it through the Judicial Panel working group.

“There are quite a lot of SFA people on that group, so if you are getting the nod that there is no point in pursuing it, then, well, there is no point!”

For all that the intransigence of the game’s governing body may frustrate Wishart at times, he is hopeful that the SFA will grasp the nettle on this issue, and a few other easily solvable gripes that would, in his view, restore the faith of players in the disciplinary process.

“I think it is on the SFA to take this on, and recognise the feeling that there is a real sense of unfairness here and change this,” he said. “They can do it, they have the power.

“I think Aberdeen and other clubs through the SPFL will have the bit between their teeth on this one, so they will liaise with the SPFL I am sure and see where to take this next.

“It wouldn’t take much, and I don’t think it is an outrageous proposal to remove this, and perhaps have a former player on the panel.

“I’ve had some reservations about the panel make-up for quite some time. There is nobody really representing the players who has actually played on the pitch.

“Now, I know the SFA will say that it is an independent process, but while the decision may be independent, the process isn’t. The SFA appoint the people who are on that panel.

“The feeling is now that you will probably lose your appeal, and I don’t think that is right.

“If we have former referees on the panel, then while players will certainly get why that is the case, they are also of the opinion that a former player should be on there too to put across the perspective of the players.

“So, there’s a wee bit of work to be done, but I don’t think this would be too complicated to fix.”