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Ross County boss John Hughes says divers are being let off the hook because SFA don’t want to embarrass referees with retrospective action

Hibernian's Martin Boyle claims for a second penalty during the Scottish Premiership match between Ross County and Hibs last month.
Hibernian's Martin Boyle claims for a second penalty during the Scottish Premiership match between Ross County and Hibs last month.

Ross County manager John Hughes reckons the Scottish FA’s desire to protect referees is preventing players from being punished for simulation.

Hughes was critical of referee John Beaton’s performance in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Hibernian, following two incidents involving Hibs attacker Martin Boyle.

The Australia international appeared to instigate the contact with Staggies defender Alex Iacovitti in the incident which led to the penalty Boyle scored to level the scoreline.

Later in the match, Boyle appeared to go to ground under no contact from the nearby Jason Naismith, but avoided any punishment, with the forward already booked by that stage.

Although it remains to be seen whether Boyle will face any retrospective action from the SFA compliance officer, Hughes feels greater transparency is required to ensure the correct outcome is ultimately met.

Hughes said: “There’s something fundamentally wrong when it’s going back to the compliance officer, who’s seeing they’re diving but can’t punish them, because that means they’re saying the referees have got it wrong.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“If they are going to stick by the rules to ensure they don’t throw referees under the bus, which I understand, that means the divers are going to get away with it. That’s not right, either.

“I think the public needs to know that. The divers don’t get punished because the referee made a mistake and they want to protect them.

“I think there needs to be clarity on that. Something has to be done for the greater good of Scottish football.”

John Hughes.

County were recently on the receiving end of another dubious decision when they went down 1-0 to St Mirren on February 27, courtesy of a soft penalty involving Buddies attacker Collin Quaner.

With County battling for Premiership survival, Hughes says he will gladly accept any return favours in the coming weeks.

Hughes added: “If my guy dives on Saturday and we get a penalty, I’ll take it.

“If it’s part and parcel of the game then we have to join the party, if that’s the way the game’s going.

“One thing I’ll never do is coach it, I’m an honest guy.

“It’s disappointing, but I’m hoping that when there are livelihoods at stake, these decisions don’t come back to haunt us.”

Hughes feels the onus is on his players to make sure the decisions against them do not prove costly, with the Staggies making the trip to St Johnstone on Saturday.

He added: “Our bigger picture is to stay in the league. Results come and go. It’s just frustrating it seems to be open season against Ross County at this particular time.

“Everybody says it’s swings and roundabouts, but we will see.”

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