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Time to let Scotland's referees defend themselves

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Jim Spence | 11:09 UK time, Saturday, 30 October 2010

"Dougie said things in the heat of the moment. They were not true. He said something he fully regretted, but there was no wilful intent in what he did.

"You can call it a lie if you wish. The view of the SFA referee committee was he acted on the spur of the moment. His head was spinning when he came off and he was gutted with himself for making the decision."

Whether you accept Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan's explanation of ref Dougie McDonald's behaviour in first awarding then denying Celtic a penalty at Tannadice, and the ref's subsequent explanation of events, will depend on your depth of understanding and compassion for the frailties of the human condition known as, well, being human.

It depends whether you subscribe to the conspiracy or cock up theory in life. Whether you believe that aliens inhabit the planet disguised as our political leaders.

Dougie McDonald's reputation may never recover, yet it was all entirely preventable if he'd just been allowed to speak openly after the match.

Yes, his conduct would have been analysed and criticised, but there would have been much less opportunity for conspiracy theories to run amok as they have done in the weeks since the game.

Surely now referees have to be given a voice or take one for themselves.

Their desire to escape some of the vicious criticism of their work is perfectly understandable. But, if that hope is, as I suspect, ultimately futile then at least they might as well have the right of reply.

In a world of rolling 24-hour news, Facebook,, fans' websites and a generally voracious appetite by the public to wallow in others' discomfort, there is little prospect of referees getting a better press anytime soon.

Refs are under immense pressure: some can handle it, some cannot. Bemoaning a lack of respect, though, will not put that genie back in the bottle.

Social habits have altered and deference to authority was one of the first casualties.

It seems some folk would like us to return to the days when our betters knew better than us.

There was a day when ministers and priests could put the fear of death into the citizenry for missing the Kirk or mass, but those days have faded into Scotland's authoritarian past.

So the chances of mere referees being able to turn the clocks back to gentler times are slim to none.

But there is now a real risk that referees might decide the game isn't worth the candle - then there will be no game.

A ref mate of mine regularly tells me tales of threats and worse from Sunday amateur football games that make my hair stand on end.
So how do we fix the problem?

Ideally, self-restraint all round would be the solution, but voluntary codes of conduct just don't work.

The original managers' embargo on criticising refs lasted around two matches as I recall.

Some people have blamed the media for asking questions of managers too soon after the game, but it's not too much communication that is at the root of the problem - it is the very opposite: too little communication.

In the Dougie McDonald affair, it's taken the SFA two weeks to communicate an explanation that would have taken five minutes after the game.

Dougie made a mistake in a game played at a million miles an hour, but the biggest mistake is the rule that stopped him explaining that to the fans via the media after the match.

Now, a fortnight has gone by allowing conspiracy theorists a field day.

There is now talk of the refs' association working with the SFA to develop a respect initiative.
But respect should not be automatically conferred on anyone. Fred Goodwin and others in the banking industry proved that.

Respect has to be earned and maintained through openness and transparency.
If referees are allowed to explain their decisions, say after half an hour of a cooling off period following games, there might still be disagreement, but at least the reasoning for a decision will be clear.

It has been pointed out that the Laws of the Game simply state that decisions are made "in the referee's opinion".

That is right and proper, but that opinion could and should be clarified. "In my opinion, it was a penalty because the defender pushed the striker", etc.

Most senior refs are eloquent and articulate. If they feel they are getting a raw deal, the best way to deal with it is to communicate.

It really is now time to let the refs have their say.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Jim,

    I think you make good points ...... even though everyone is probably too busy swearing at, or threatening, so ref somewhere to pay any attention to it !!

    Only thing I disagree with ...... it does not only apply to refs in Scotland, an neither should being able to have their say.

    The only area of concern is that there is always the chance of it degenerating into a slanging match in the media .... although I think the refs have too much class for that, even if some supporters, managers and players do not.



    South Africa

  • Comment number 2.

    Have their say how? On MOD? twitter? some might want to I suppose. I don't think making them more recognizable will help them much. I too have seen some crazy stuff in Sunday league but the penalties are very strict - life bans etc

    Until the players (and managers) are seen to show them more respect, things won't change. Its gotta start on the pitch, Rugby's 10 yard penalty would not work in football, but they should draw the line somewhere, every match you'll see players tugging at the refs arm or waving hands in their face. They should penalise retrospectively for any physical contact, irrespective of whether the ref has put it in his report or not.

    I don't see why Dougies rep shouldn't recover Jim? he did the right thing after all. The admin anomally should have been punished but should not have been made public

  • Comment number 3.

    The problem with a ref explaining his decision is that people will watch the slow motion replay from ten angles, then make the ref look stupid because he has said what he has given from one angle and at break neck speed,that is the whole problem when people talk about refs their assume incorrectly he has seen what their have when in fact that is not the case

  • Comment number 4.


    We live in a country where, not so long ago, the school you went to determined whether or not you could be considered for a job at certain firms.

    We live in a country that still shows preference to those who went to certain educational institutions - Eton, Fettes, Oxford and Cambridge.

    We live in a country where our politicians bend the truth and falsify expense claims - thieve, defraud, and evade taxes. The speakers office conspired to keep it quiet - even going to the lengths of having the police arrest an innocent M.P. for trying to blow the whistle.

    Not so long ago we lived in a country where our most successful football club conspired not to include catholics in their team, and the Scottish media conspired to keep stum about it. Or am I wrong that those were not conspiracies.

    Guinness lied about keeping the HQ of Distillers in Edinburgh; Kraft lied about keeping the Cadbury's Somerdale factory open, only to announce it's closure after the takeover. Timex treated their Dundee employees abysmally and the Tories lied to working Nottinghamshire miners that their pits were safe from closure.

    We have laws (something we both know a bit about) to protect pregnant women from being dismissed by unscrupulous employers, and laws to prevent racial, sexual or religious discrimination.

    I could go on, but by now you'll know where we're going with this, Jim.

    If employers and governments can conspire and lie and treat good people badly, why are referees assumed to be above all of that?

    Perhaps you're right. Perhaps Dougie McDonald and Willie Collum have erred. But it is wrong to dismiss any question of impropriety out of hand. I think it's lazy and ignorant to automatically assume that referees, in contrast to every other group in our society, are beyond bias, dishonesty or conspiracy.

    They may well be innocent of any wrongdoing but enquiring will surely prove that? Just as the enquiry into Jim Farry's handling of Jorge Cadete's registration proved that Celtic's attempt to register the player prior to a crucial old firm match was deliberately delayed, and that the conspiracy theorists were wrong after all about the circumstances of Dr David Kelly's death. I'm surprised that a law graduate and a journalist would seem to suggest that questions and enquiries should be suppressed.

  • Comment number 5.

    I would just like to nail my colours to the mast. I am paranoid and have been for more than 30 years ago. An incident happened in an OF game in 1978 where the referee, JRP Gordon, allowed Rangers to break up the park and score in an unguarded goal while almost all of the Celtic team were in the Rangers half around the linesman. The Celtic team were so incensed that only a plea by Jock Stein persuaded them to re-start after a few minutes. The incident is described perfectly by Jim Reynolds in the Herald. So this is not just a Celtic viewpoint. I was only 12 years old at the time but the memory is still vivid. This was something that I had never seen before and it made me realise that this was not just an 'honest mistake' but something entirely more sinister. Since then I've seen Rangers be allowed to re-start a match when half the Celtic team were not even in their own half. Again a decision that cannot be explained by a simple mistake. I've witnessed Bobby Tait in the flesh at a Sportsmans dinner articulate the number of trophies that Rangers won on his watch. This is the man who ultimately cost Rangers 10-In-A-Row by playing 6 minutes injury time at Ibrox, only for Kilmarnock to spoil the party and score. I've also seen the Chief of the SFA being forced to resign over the Cadete affair. These are major issues where the behaviour was calculated and deliberate. beyond the usual 50/50 decisions that may or may not go in one team's favour.

    The Dougie McDonald incident has left me with that same bitter taste in my mouth. I think the gravity of this affair cannot be overstated. I think it may yet represent a tipping point for Celtic and their supporters. Bearing that in mind I was pretty disappointed in your short article Ewan. This is a crisis. A lie is a lie is a lie. End of story. That is not slap on the wrist behaviour. Furthermore, Mr McDonald gave almost an identical award against Dundee United in a Scottish Cup tie at the tail end of last season. Again he was immediately surrounded by Dundee United players but he went nowhere near the direction of his linesman. The penalty award stood, although it was proved to be a howling error, and was duly converted. So why did he behave so differently in those circumstances ?? I think he has been mortally wounded and I can't see how he can recover his credibility. Every paper today has described him as a liar. I think he'll go despite the pleas of the increasingly irrelevant Kenny Clark and Stuart Dougal.

    We should demand greater transparency in our referees. I feel we have to get to a situation where you cannot referee a match involving a team you support. In business the term is a 'Conflict of Interests'. It's a rule that is in place in England and represents the way forward. If Scotland is too small a country, where you are deemed to be one or the other, and is incapable of producing the required number of these neutral refs then we just have to import them until the situation is remedied. Only then can referees have real credibility and we can remove this stain on our game.

  • Comment number 6.

    Nearly every week, I have wondered why the 'talking heads' give their opinions on the various referees' decisions, without letting the referees explain their decisions. Now it turns out that, at least in Scotland, there is a rule that prevents them from doing so. The referees should get together to get this rule repealed as quickly as possible; then we wouldn't have to rely on uninformed opinion, but would hear an explanation from the referees themselves. It seemed that the referees craved to be noticed by dressing in bright colours, instead of being the 'men in black' but they didn't take the logical next step of putting themselves in the public eye after the match, as well as during the match.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think McDonald is finished; not because of his decision to overturn the penalty award but because of his ham-fisted attempt to blame his linesman for doing so and the fact his honesty is so publicly compromised.

    I'm sure it never once crossed Dougie McDonald's mind when writing up the match report that Hugh Dallas would rush to the media or that Steven Craigan would be so incensed by Dallas's action that he resigned; but that is what has happened and there can't be many Scottish officials queueing up to be part of Dougie's matchday team as a result - he has been shown to be the kind of person who will falsely sell others down the river before accepting responsibility for his actions.

    Dallas is another whose position must be in question given his role in embarrassing the SFA this week - it is not very professional to shoot your mouth off in the press before the full facts are properly established and is behaviour that has cost many a public offical their

    Now, we await Sunday's "exclusive" where Steven Craigan will no doubt hang McDonald and Dallas out to dry in return for a payday - one which will probably cover a few years of lost match fees.

    Yet, all of this could have been avoided had McDonald had the honesty and courage to write a report saying that he felt that, on reflection, he was too quick to award the penalty and that given another 10 secs to consider things, there is no way he can state with any certainty whether Pernis touched Hoooper or the ball first, therefore no penalty should be awarded - the fact he missed the contact on Hooper from Gary Kenneth just before Pernis's grab for the ball took him down is another matter!!

    Let's face facts, referees need two forms of help here - video evidence for game changing decisions (penalties, red cards and whether a ball crossed the goal line) and a public platform to defend themselves from rabid managers, players and pundits after matches.

  • Comment number 8.

    4 IRN - Tax doesnt have to be taxing

    you write.........I'm surprised that a law graduate and a journalist would seem to suggest that questions and enquiries should be suppressed.

    How can you possibly have read this blog and concluded that I have suggested any such thing ?

    here is a sample to refresh your memory

    There is now talk of the refs' association working with the SFA to develop a respect initiative.
    But respect should not be automatically conferred on anyone. Fred Goodwin and others in the banking industry proved that.

    Respect has to be earned and maintained through openness and transparency.
    If referees are allowed to explain their decisions, say after half an hour of a cooling off period following games, there might still be disagreement, but at least the reasoning for a decision will be clear.

    In what way does that appear to be a suggestion that there should be any form of suppression ?

    You also write "We live in a country where, not so long ago, the school you went to determined whether or not you could be considered for a job at certain firms."

    Indeed, and it happened to me and others here in Dundee with a well known firm who openly practised such discrimination. However, it was long time ago and redolent of the Scotland that I hope we've left behind.

  • Comment number 9.

    what a load of drivel talked here, both jim spence and the contrubutors.
    you cant have a game without the ref, so accept his decisions or take up something else, chickymelly, feechee touch or some other bairns game, cos thats what your all acting like.

  • Comment number 10.

    This whole incident is way out of proportion. Celtic fans seem to believe that the whole ref community is against them. In the game, the Ref made the right call eventually. He failed to write it up correctly. Call me crazy but that seems more like an admin issue than a cheating issue. McDonald made a mistake but it did not affect the outcome of the game. As for missing the other penalty call, oh well. I've reffed kids games and mistakes there. Would the accusation be that i am a secret supporter of Lochside U11s?

    The Celtic fans who keep track of 'honest mistakes' should try supporting a non-OF team. I'll happily wager any amount that us wee teams are on the recieving end of more bad decisions vs the OF than RanTic vs CelGer. Why? Because crowds influence games, because the wee teams usually see less of the ball, because the better players usually move quicker than the other players. As for writing letters every week asking for clarification, sheesh. What do they actually hope to achieve? Dallas quitting, MacDonald quitting, Craven gone. Anything else? Maybe to sate their thirst the SFA should just ask for applicants from the Kerrydale Street board.

    Lennon is a whiny dope who seems to have failed to grasp the fact that everyone else in Scotland can see. Celtic aren't good enough. That is why they have been beaten in the only 3 games that matter for them this year. They didn't lose in Europe because of dodgy refs.

    Refs should explain their actions, nobody questions that. However managers have a responsiblity to the game. The last few weeks have been nothing but insinuation and conjecture. Lennon has accused 2 refs in 2 weeks of trying to cheat his team. These comments are out of line.

  • Comment number 11.

    "It depends whether you subscribe to the conspiracy or cock up theory in life. Whether you believe that aliens inhabit the planet disguised as our political leaders".

    That sentence, to me, and others I am sure, suggests that anyone who raises the possibility that decisions going against Celtic, particularly against Rangers, may be more sinister than 'honest mistakes' or human error are conspiracy theorists. Dismissing an alternative point of view as a conspiracy theory or more usually, 'paranoia' is a sure fire way to stifle debate and 'suppress' an alternative argument.

    We agree that religious discrimination in Scotland is not as extreme as it once was, but it does still exist. Perhaps one day it will be eradicated, but nothing changes overnight. Social change doesn't just happen as an event, it moves gradually.

    Is Celtic being treated unfairly due to bigotry? I honestly don't know. But I've often wondered if sociologists would replicate the studies they have done regarding media portrayal of political parties.

    My gut feeling is that Celtic suffer a disproportionate amount of poor decisions against Rangers, but benefit against other teams. In the latter case I think it's because of the backing they get from the crowd. In the former case it may be that there is a disproportionate number of officials who lean towards Rangers. Their bias is not deliberate but it is affecting their judgement nonetheless.

    Of course,I guess that makes me a fully paid-up member of the flat earth society and you can claim that I also believe the moon landings were a hoax etc. But as I say, let's have the debate and, better still, let's get those sociologists to tell us their findings and put the matter on a proper academical footing instead of slagging each other off on a blog.

    What is there to fear?

    I'm afraid that allowing referees to explain their decisions 30 minutes after the final whistle has blown will make no difference. What will the ref say? 'I got it wrong...sorry....I thought it was offside' or 'contact was made, I thought it was sufficient and intentional for it to be judged as foul play and I stand by my decision'. That won't change the result and IF there is bias it won't change that either and future poor decisions.

    Cameras replaying contentious decisions at the relevant time might though.

  • Comment number 12.

    My gut feeling is that Celtic suffer a disproportionate amount of poor decisions against Rangers, but benefit against other teams. In the latter case I think it's because of the backing they get from the crowd. In the former case it may be that there is a disproportionate number of officials who lean towards Rangers. Their bias is not deliberate but it is affecting their judgement nonetheless.
    So the crowd influence decisions for Celtic and the bad decisions against them are because the refs lean towards Rangers? I think that is what you are saying.

    Are Dougie McDonald and Willie Collum Rangers-leaning then in your view?

  • Comment number 13.

    Would it be totally out of the question to bring in foreign referees and officials for the Old Firm matches ?

    This is common practice in Iran, where the Persepolis v Esteghlal derby game is officiated by people from outside the country, and also in Egypt, where the Al-Ahly v Zamalek match is usually refereed by a non-Egyptian.

    As the Glasgow derby is amongst the fiercest and most impassioned in world football, I've always thought that this would make sense.

    However, the SFA may be reluctant to introduce this idea, as it may be construed as a tacit admission that the impartiality of referees was a concern to them.

  • Comment number 14.

    Is Celtic being treated unfairly due to bigotry?
    What about the view that clubs other than Rangers get decisions against them playing Celtic because of bigotry (since ref bias can work for them as well from Celtic leaning officials)? Or the view that Rangers get decisions against them from Celtic leaning refs?

    I'm not saying that I'm agreeing or disagreeing with anything you are saying but I've heard the same ref being called different things game to game depending on what those who see football through their particular religious and/or cultural lens want out of a match: the 'mason' in the black and the 'fenian' in the black. We have all heard this stuff.

    Personally, I think the major form of bias in decisions in football arises for bigger (vs smaller) and for home (vs away) teams.

  • Comment number 15.

    Rob04, I should have been clearer:

    I feel that Rangers, like Celtic, get the benefit of the doubt in games outwith the old firm due to the influence of their large crowds. But yes, I also feel that there is a disproportionate number of officials who favour Rangers and this benefits them further.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Now, when a referee tells a lie, gets his assistant to support that lie, and then his boss tries to get the assistant to repeat that lie and cover up the truth......

    isn't that a conspiracy????

    Where do you stand with your 'human error' argument now, Jim Spence? Given that the lie was told to Neil Lennon minutes after the game had ended....what difference would it make for the ref to have the right to make public comments after the game? The only difference I can see is that we, the public, would get to hear the lies sooner.

    Very strange that Jim Traynor was so critical of Chris Maguire's view of the 'conspiracy' yesterday when he obviously knew what was going to be published next day.

    McDonald and Dallas position is now untenable. And at £850 a pop my guess is that, in the worst recession since 1929, there will be no shortage of people willing to step up to the plate and officiate games.

    On another note: why is it that a game so overwhelmingly played by working class men is just as overwhelmingly officiated by middle class professionals? Just a thought.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    The idea that Celtic's reputation has been enhanced is a phallacy - how has it been enhanced?
    If anything the fact that the club have been happy to leak information to the press regarding their enquiries to the SFA about officials over the last 12 months has tarnished our reputation, especially that of John Reid and Peter Lawwell who appear to be in a competition to play the wounded victim.

    Let's get things clear in this matter - we (Celtic) get more than our fair share of 50-50 decisions in Scottish Football.

    This incident has done nothing to establish a widespread vendetta against Celtic FC; it has only served to highlight the amateur fashion in which our game is administered; effectively ended Dougie McDonald's refereeing career and completely trashed Hugh Dallas's reputation.

    I'd expect Dallas to be sacked on Monday morning - there is no way he can survive in his post after this; and no way that anyone at the SFA should wish him to.
    This is desperately unfortunate as Dallas was a good referee, with a fantastic reputation in his industry and considered to be among the top 5 ref's of the last 20 years worldwide - all that is now gone.

    There are no winners here, in my opinion; the Celtic heirarchy will now go on to question every throw-in that goes for the opposition, other SPL managers will now highlight every 50-50 that goes the way of the home side at Ibrox and the SFA will not be able to ignore them because the two people in charge of officiating in Scotland have been proven to be dishonest.

  • Comment number 20.

    I suggest anyone who is critical of referees volunteers to referee a friendly one summer at the local park! I have and eventually walked off 10 minutes into the second half.

    The constant abuse and veiled threats has your head spinning, so multiply this pressure 100 times for an spl ref who has been questioned, 3 days prior to even a ball has been kicked, in the press for his ability to control the game (yes Neil lennon's tactics) and no wonder referees make mistakes.

    Oh and the game I volunteered to referee was a Boys football!!!!

    Having just watched MoTD, and the man it'd goal sums up the attitude towards refs. From 8 years old I've been taught to 'play to the whistle' the spurs goalie not only had the ball in his hands but throws it down a good 5 seconds after the ref gestures to play on a full 15 yards from where the hand ball was and somehow every spurs player and manager blames the referee.

    The easy option was to blame the ref!

  • Comment number 21.

    So are Dougie McDonald and Willie Collum Rangers-leaning then in your view?

  • Comment number 22.

    I must agree with Jim, on the point, refs must be allowed to come out and explain their decisions. Quite honestly, if Willie Collum had come out after the OF game and said, hands up I made a mistake and explained why he gave the decisions. We would probably not be having this conversation.
    That been said, Referees cannot expect to be let away with errors, there has to be criticism, it happens in every other walk of life, why should refs be exempt. Yes, it's a pressure job, if too tough, leave!

    Neil Lennon has become the scapegoat or some sort of pariah for daring to question the refs decisions, for heavens sake, it is his right, like Wengers, Fergies, Walters and every other manager.

    As has been stated in previous comments and by Jim himself, the fault lies at the SFA's door. Those in charge need to come out of their Ivory Tower and tell the paying public the truth.

    I said the same thing last week, Celtic are on a bad run of decisions by ref, mostly in the OF games, law of averages state, Celtic are overdue some decisions going their way, if this does'nt happen soon, the tipping point we are at now, will pass and the pressure on refs an the SFA will become untolerable.

    Dallas must go, Macdonald made an error, whats then point in losing a decent ref over, what was a moot point in the end.

  • Comment number 23.

    markreilly886 wrote: "Quite honestly, if Willie Collum had come out after the OF game and said, hands up I made a mistake and explained why he gave the decisions. We would probably not be having this conversation"

    WRONG .... it was a penalty so why say he made a mistake!

    markreilly886 wrote: "Yes, it's a pressure job, if too tough, leave!"

    It's not the pressure, it's the death threats, letters through the door, bricks at windows that cause the probelems. if yoy read the report the abuse and viloence towards even refs at amatuer level would shock most people. No wonder it is a huge struggle to get people to take up refereeing!

    What difference does putting a ref under even more pressure to explain every decision after a game?

    If you believe ref are honest men, accept it and move on.

  • Comment number 24.

    isn't that a conspiracy????
    But a 'conspiracy' (your word!) of incompetence or of Rangers leaning officials?

  • Comment number 25.

    WRONG .... it was a penalty so why say he made a mistake!

    Maybe because it was so obvious to everyone (except those with blue tinted glasses) that it was simulation on the part of Kirk Broadfoot.

  • Comment number 26.

    I am not at all sure of what 'house rule' I broke in order to merit having posts #16 and #18 removed - one of them was simply a cut and paste from this morning's Sunday Mail.

    What was that I was saying about suppressing the debate?

    Rob 04(#15), I said 'I don't know' at post #11. In reply to your other post, #16, you cannot conspire to be incompetent. In any event it is not disputed that the match officials conspired to hide the truth over the matter of McDonald changing his mind over the warding of the penalty. Did Hugh Dallas also conspire to do the same after he became aware of the McDonald-Craven pact? I have a feeling we're going to find out.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Id like to know what I said wrong?

    Celtic and Rangers both get the lions share against every other team in Scotland.

    Celtic have had two shockers against them in the past two weeks.

    The SPL bent over backwards to help Rangers in 07/08.

    Rangers fans did still complain that they didn't get enough help.

    These are all factual statements which I covered.

  • Comment number 29.


    You write - “Dougie McDonald’s reputation may never recover”

    If you ask me, after the very frank interview he gave to Brian McLauchlin, his reputation has just gone up by leaps and bounds. It is this sort of integrity that is all too often missing in football and it took a lot of guts.

    What it tells us is that the culture that prevails behind the closed doors of the SFA, far from alleviating the pressures on those at the top of the game, only serves to add to them and what results is intimidation. It is hardly surprising that human frailty gives way.

    If Dougie McDonald’s version is indeed the truth, then I only hope that for his own good, Steven Craven has the courage to admit to his own mistakes.

    You write - “Respect has to be earned and maintained through openness and transparency”

    If Stewart Regan is going to develop respect then this incident should serve as a pointer to where he has to start.

    He could do no worse than addressing the secretive culture within the SFA so that people can have some faith in their leadership. If people feel they can’t believe the SFA, then is it any surprise that they draw their own conclusions on conspiracies and the like.

    As to respect being earned, this is a frequently used term which forgets that everyone is entitled to respect, unless by some act of folly, they loose people’s respect and have to regain it. I don’t think for one minute that Dougie McDonald falls into this category but others will have to decide for themselves.

    As for the SFA, that is a different matter entirely. I just hope Stewart Regan realises the degree to which the SFA has lost people’s respect and that his new vision of respect includes respect for the paying customer

    He to realise in my opinion that respect is a two way street.

  • Comment number 30.

    Agree with much of what you say with the exception that I think Dougie has been an accident waiting to happen for most weeks over the years and is never far away from incompetence. And is he now telling the truth and the whole truth about this affair? Who can tell? And that may be the problem that neither he and Dallas can ever step away from.

    What a mess and we are now into the game of claim and counter-claim among the officials (and ex-official). This story is set to run and run. It wouldn't surprise me though at the end of it if Dallas goes and comes to some mutual arrangement with the SFA. I'm not sure we can be in a position where the integrity of the head of refs is being questioned in such a public way.

    Now awaiting Celtic's response with baited breath.

  • Comment number 31.

    IRN, you are clearly the eptiome of Bitterness.
    Celtic have played an absolute blinder with this, they have managed to create such a smoke-screen and deflection that the papers have been talking about this ref-gate nonsense rather than focus on the fact that Rangers outplayed Celtic and won very comfortably.
    Here are the 2 simple facts.....
    1 The ref and linesman got the decision right against Dundee Utd, there is no conspiracy.
    2 Rangers showed how far ahead of Celtic they are in the 3-1 win.
    Celtic like any team would do have managed to take away from their defeat in the Old Firm game, but let us not forget that if Celtic had beaten Rangers then we would not be hearing all this nonsense, not on the same scale anyway!

  • Comment number 32.

    We all known respect works both ways. It would be interesting to brodcast the ref's microphone feed like they do in rugby. It would allow the public to hear the level of abuse the ref gets from the players on a regular basis. It would let the public hear whether the ref is justfied in treating some of the players like kids.

    Sitting watching the game you only have a view of what is going on and what sort of pressure the ref is put under by the players. If we had knowledge of what sort of verbal abuse he gets it might be enough for the players to stop it. If the players thought everyone could hear them cursing and swearing it might just be enough to make those with an ounce of sense, think twice before they let rip.

    As has been suggested let the ref pull the ball forward 10 yards if he feels the player has been abusive. Let us hear that abuse so we all, both sets of supporters, understand the reason right away. We all know the reason whay and the incident is forgotten about and the game moves on.

  • Comment number 33.

    Lets make things clear Dougie McDonald made the right decision so the many comments saying that celtic are somehow the victims of injustice are so far off the mark it's not true.
    And for anyone to even hint that Collum is "Rangers leaning" needs to have a long look at themselves in the mirror. In the penalty decision contact was made, you can argue till the end of the earth over whether or not it was a penalty but you see these decisions day in day out across the world (some given, some not) - and yes even celtic have had these decisions in their favour. I would say, as would anyone not of a celtic mind, that his bigger mistakes were not to send off Stokes, Samaras (for a series of offenses, not the pathetic kneeing) and yes McCulloch too.

    I have to laugh at the comments saying that the refs comments after a game would not make any difference, if so then why are celtic writing to the SFA for an explanation? These are exactly the answers they will get.

    Jim - what ever happened to the whistleblower website where referees did explain there decisions the day after the games? This got shut down, why?

  • Comment number 34.

    Does anyone really think that if there was an institutional leaning toward Rangers that it would have taken 10 years for Rangers to win a penalty at parkhead?
    There has been ample opportunity to give a penalty, indeed some you could describe as stonewallers.

    Refs make mistakes, and in many cases a lot of them, get over it.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    In what way did previous post break the rules?
    MacDonald admitted he lied and as a ref making mistakes are one thing but a refs integrity must be 1st class, MacDonalds is now severely compromised and will continue to be for some considerable time.
    Also had penalty not been given the old firm game was still on a knife edge but at 3-1 was handing a huge advantage to rangers and certainly ensured the points went to rangers.

  • Comment number 37.


    You could well be right about High Dallas and in other similar circumstances might well deserve the chop.

    Trouble here is I’m not sure he deserves it. Too many people have waded in here and muddied the waters.

    The public questioning of Hugh Dallas underlines the lack of faith problem but there is also the blame culture and the fear that this engenders. If Dougie McDonald’s version is accurate, then this could be the driver behind Steven Craven’s alleged reaction which is why I think he needs to put his version in front of the cameras like Dougie McDonald.

    Somehow the lid has to be properly lifted on this and I notice that George Peat and his private army are keeping their heads down.

    It is a very serious mess as you say and Stewart Regan has to be up to it or else his entire tenure will be subject to the same criticism as his predecessor. He won’t get a better opportunity to make his mark.

  • Comment number 38.

    The Monday after an interesting weekend in Scottish football, with a very important CL game for a Scottish club upcoming tomorrow night, and all we can talk about are referees and refereeing decisions from the past fortnight.

    This, to me, tells it's own story and highlights that no matter what others might think, we do have a problem with referees in Scotland.

    Put simply, it's my opinion that the overall standard is not good enough to cope with the modern game.

    The game has progressed, but i don't believe that referees and the standards that are demanded of them, have evolved at the same pace. Something has to change, and the SFA need to seriously look at the overall situation with regards to how they train and develop their referees to get them ready for the SPL.

    People talk about respect, and i agree that the disrespect shown towards ref's at times is crazy, but that's a two way street, respect does have to be earned.

    Here's a radical idea though, why not ask the people who are affected most by ref's what their opinion is? Let's ask the players.

    Get Hugh Dallas to go around ALL the clubs in Scotland and sit down and have a frank and meaningul discussion with the players at EVERY SPL club what their thoughts are on the standard of refs, and what they would like to see change. At the end of the day, they are the ones who are going to be affected the most by a controversial decision, or a wrong decision.

    Yes, they will all come out and say things in the heat of the moment after a game, but go and see them on a wednesday when they've just had a nice training session, go and find out what they really think.

    If we take the two main incidents in question, the incident at Tannadice was so poorly communicated at Tannadice that Celtic didn't contest the drop ball because they still weren't sure what was going on. As for the penalty incident in the Old Firm game, when did you EVER see Collina (easily the best ref of the modern era) being hit by a ball on the edge of the penalty box and having his back turned to an incident on the ball in the box?

    I'm not going to hold Collum to the high standard of Collina....but everything about his positioning and decision making for that one incident was just horrible.

  • Comment number 39.


    Much will depend on the response of Celtic. If they accept it all as error and human frailty then fine but I'm not sure that is the end game for Dermot. Its too small a point to make in this way. As someone above stated, they really might well have played a 'blinder' on this incident.

    Dallas might well not deserve it Iain on this occasion as you say but I'm increasingly of the view, watching this play on and on, that Dallas is the target for Celtic. I don't think the Celtic board are interested in DMcD at all but may be using him as a hook on which to pin Dallas. And in many ways this is unsurprising given that he is the one they hold responsible for the officials.

    And as you'll know yourself in other walks of organisational life, once questions of credibility have been raised and appear to have some underlying substance (And I'm not talking about the conspiracy theory some Celtic fans run with because as a Celtic fan myself I don't bother with this background nonsense), it can easily get to the 'dead man walking' stage. Another key issue will be what Dallas has reported to his line manager Stewart Regan. If he has fudged it in any way or been economical with the truth and what he knows, he is gone no question about it.

    Feel sorry for Stewart Regan but on the other hand all of this fiasco may give him the power to drive a truck through the SFA committee structures. Here's hoping.

    Don't you just love the silence of George Peat? In previous SFA debacles you can't get the guy to shut up but this time not a peep. Its serious and even George must know it.

  • Comment number 40.

    You're misunderstanding my views on this matter, #31.

    I agree 100% that it was not a penalty (at Tannadice) - at least not at the point we're discussing - and that Dougie McDonald was 100% correct to change his mind. After all, isn't that what, as football fans, we all crave - that the big decisions are made correctly?

    My problem with the McDonald fiasco is the acknowledged cover-up.

    If McDonald had simply changed his mind or better still, not awarded the penalty in the first place, I'd say it was a good decision.

    But he copped out and made Steven Craven the fall guy. That was cowardly as well as dishonest.

    He made a mistake and tried to create the impression that Craven had called him over despite the fact that Craven assumed the position for a penalty being awarded. That impression was then built upon by the officials telling Dallas (who told the nation) that Craven had shouted 'Dougie, Dougie' - the suggestion, not disputed, was made by McDonald.

    It's not the decision that irks me, it's the cover-up.

    Ibrox is a separate matter. I had already agreed that Rangers were the better side and richly deserved their victory. But the penalty decision was awarded incorrectly, Collum could not possibly have saw any contact (only seeing Broadfoot hit the deck), and at 1:2 Celtic were still very much in the game. The penalty killed any prospect of Celtic taking at least a point. I hope that makes my position clearer for you and expect you to retract the accusation of bitterness on my part.

  • Comment number 41.

    So it's Celtic and Dermot Desmond that are conspiring against the SFA? Is that it, Rob04 @ #39.

  • Comment number 42.

    #33. We all know contact was made. Like my fellow poster above you're not following the point of objection. Apart from the fact that very little contact was made, and the contact made was not foul play......

    The referee could not possibly have saw any contact because he had his back to the play. He only saw Broadfoot hit the deck and jumped to the same conclusion as Dougie McDonald had done a week earlier at Tannadice. No second thoughts from Willie though. No change of mind. No referall to his assistant.

  • Comment number 43.

    Well anyone who would believe that the Celtic board went down this path without having a strategy and possible scenarios/ objectives in sight really has to be in the lost puppy club.

    I acknowledge their ability to 'think through' what they were initiating. These are 'big boys' and while I can understand your desire to defend what you 'imagine' to be every and any criticism of CFC, it would be incredulous to believe that the board lacked views on where they wanted to go with this one. You may not like my opinion of what I think would be acceptable to them but I'm not bothered with that and can happily defend my corner on it til the cows come home: unlike your 'conspiracy' theory above which would fall without too much of any effort. Can I suggest that you are again using the word 'conspiracy' without any real thought as to what you are talking about, or the intent behind it.

  • Comment number 44.

    @42 'He only saw Broadfoot hit the deck '

    That's simply not true, watch it again especially the angle from behind collum he saw contact quite clearly. What he did not see was that Broadfoot was already falling into that contact. But I repeat, this kind of contact gained by the attacking player is given as a penalty quite regularly throughout the world. Collum made far worse decisions in the game so you cannot pin the result on this one. Stokes, Samaras and McCulloch could all have seen red by this point and the game would have been totally different.

    One question I have for those who are claiming Craven is the victim here, Craven knew it was not a penalty, he knew the keeper got to the ball, so the question is why was he NOT calling DM over to tell him?

    It's funny how some people choose to believe his version of events over the other 2 people in the dressing room that day. Perhaps it's because his version fits their own agenda a bit better? who knows.

    I'm not sure we'll ever get the whole truth out of this, but I do want to know why assistant referees in general actually do very little assisting.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    Those who adminster and officiate football in Scotland, be they the SFA, the SPL, the SFL indulge in lies to conceal their incompetence, their prejudice and their self-interest.

    Scottish football badly needs reform and the only way that can be done is to cut out the rotten and dead wood.

  • Comment number 47.

    To Ben at#44

    Can you tell me where in the rule book it says that a goalkeeper can come through the player to touch a ball?

    Elsewhere on the pitch if a player comes through his opposit number to touch the ball a foul is given. Wht is it different for a goalkeeper.

    Watch the clip again carefully. Hooper having evaded the foul by the defender, reaches the ball before the goalkeeper, he touches it away with the outside of his right foot, the goalkeeper then slides staright though him to get a touch on the ball. he is illegally impeded by the goalkeeper - penalty!

  • Comment number 48.

    46. At 1:55pm on 02 Nov 2010, minuend wrote:

    Those who adminster and officiate football in Scotland, be they the SFA, the SPL, the SFL indulge in lies to conceal their incompetence, their prejudice and their self-interest.

    Scottish football badly needs reform and the only way that can be done is to cut out the rotten and dead wood.

    Good stuff Minuend. How do we decide what is rotten? Shall we go on the say so of forum posters, purveyors of rumour and innuendo? The majority of Celtic supporting posters here would ask for the removal of Dallas and McDonald. I'd question that because i don't think Dallas has done anything wrong. McDonald may have written an alternative version but ultimately THE CORRECT DECISON WAS MADE. There appears to be versions of the truth here and we are unlikely to ever know the exact goings on. Time to mic up the refs rugby style and allow us all a part in their discussions on the pitch. As for the old firm game, soft, but a 50/50 decision i think.

    People have this skewed idea that somehow the SFA, SFL, and SPL are accountable to us. They aren't democratic because they are private interest groups. Tough as it is we don't have any say. We support clubs, clubs appoint reps and members, reps and members make decisions. This is the democracy they have settled for. Much like your MP, you select them to make the decisions for you. You may not agree with the decisions but tough, you chose them. Much like the teams and the assocations and leagues.

  • Comment number 49.


    Since your original post and your further comments on 30th October, this story has evolved beyond recognition.

    You have failed to join the debate, which is really the purpose of a blog, so why don't you now re-enter the discussion and share your considered view now that it has become quite clear that at least one person, if not more depending on whose version you choose to accept, from the SFA refereeing community has beeen telling "untruths".

    How do you consider that any club, or its fans, can now look at particular referees and their "leaked explanations" for controversial decisions and not doubt the veracity of what they are saying.

    Dougie MacDonald says Craven instigated this "untruth", yet when you listen to his BBC interview he says that Craven instigated the conversation, but that he (Dougie) suggested the "Dougie Dougie" story. To any man in the street, that means MacDonald is the one who suggested the "untruth".

    Further into the interview he claims to have told Hugh Dallas the truth later on Sunday afternoon, yet Mr Dallas has come out and said his conversations took place on the Monday - who is telling the truth?

    I am sad to say, the whole episode stinks of people, who like the rest of us are human and make mistakes, but unlike the rest of us with moral fibre,are unable or unwilling to face the consequences of their mistakes and would rather tell "untruths" to cover for themselves and their colleagues than face the truth.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi Jim,

    I think it would be fair to say that it is not just referee Dougie McDonalds reutation that may not recover from this inncident, but the reputation of the SFA itself may find it alot more difficult to regain a shade of pride. This kind of behaviour is not the kind that we want younger people to see or hear about, especially if they want to have a career in the SFA, is there anywonder why we have a lack of young referees in Scotland today?


  • Comment number 51.


    Going back to your original article; If referees were allowed to participate in a post match interview and give an explanation for events, how would this have played out?

    The officials had decided in the privacy of the referee's room to tell the supervisor that Mr Craven had shouted "Dougie, Dougie" in order to let Mr MacDonald know that he had made a mistake. If they then came out to face a media interview, surely they would have had to maintain that "untruth" to the public in order not to contradict what they had just told the supervisor.

    Therefore the current furore about "post match procedural errors" would pale into insignificance as the new focus would be on the "untruths" told to the media and public.

    Alongside this, very little is being said about the "untruths" told to the Celtic manager. Should every manager and player not expect honesty and integrity from the officials? If that cannot be relied upon what is the point of having them? They are held to be arbiters of the rules and fair play. If their utterances are not to be taken as fact they cannot possibly be left in such positions of trust.

    Although "it is only a game", it is a agme with very high financial stakes for those involved. The key requisite for officials must be honesty and integrity. We are now unfortunately all left wondering if our officials now possess those qualities.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    #44 I don't think anyone is claiming Steven Craven is a victim - he conspired to go along with the lie suggested by McDonald. Charlie Smith has only agreed that Craven 'instigated' the lie by asking McDonald how they should explain the change of decision to McBurney so I don't see how Charlie Smith gets your man off the hook.

  • Comment number 54.


    Refs don't get the chance to watch the clip carefully (even with green tinted glasses on) but have to make up their minds on the spot. I don't think the goalie went through him at all at the time and most opinion I've read since agrees that it was not a pen. Your opinion though would however suit your spectacles.


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