Sport Soccer

Friday 15 December 2017

McDonald bows to pressure

Roddy Forsyth

SCOTTISH football breathed a collective sigh of relief last night when Dougie McDonald announced that he would retire with immediate effect as a category one referee.

The man at the heart of the crisis which led to a strike by his fellow match officials in Scotland issued a statement which expressed regret but was also a veiled attack on Celtic, whose chairman John Reid recently repeated demands for McDonald to be sacked.

After the enforced departure of Hugh Dallas -- the former head of the referee development department at the Scottish FA, who was sacked on Friday for a breach of internal protocol -- opinion was close to unanimous that the crisis which has engulfed the game in Scotland could only be defused if McDonald quit.

Although Dallas was dismissed because of his part in circulating a satirical email which referred to the Pope's recent visit to the UK in the context of the child abuse scandal within the Roman Catholic Church, his exit is widely viewed as a direct consequence of the pressure exerted by Celtic on the SFA since McDonald awarded them a penalty kick in their game against Dundee United at Tannadice on October 17 and then reversed his decision.

It was not McDonald's U-turn that created the controversy but a failure of judgment in falsifying the details of the incident his match report.

Dallas was drawn into the circle of fire when he defended McDonald's performance on radio the day after the match, but he had already been in Celtic's sights for some time. Celtic's Peter Lawwell and Tony Mowbray, who was at that time manager at Parkhead, went to the SFA offices at Hampden Park earlier this year to express their concern about refereeing decisions in matches involving their team.

Dallas was present at the meeting, as was Gordon Smith, who was then chief executive of the SFA.

It is understood that Lawwell and Mowbray were asked if they believed there was any bias against Celtic among Scotland's referees and that, if the answer was 'yes', the matter would be referred to a high level of authority.

When no such allegation was forthcoming, the brief meeting came to an end and Mowbray and Dallas then sat down together to analyse specific incidents involving Celtic games.

Four lower-profile SFA employees have also been dismissed for circulating the email about the Pope and at least four others have received an official reprimand about their conduct.

Dallas -- as well as the other four who have been sacked -- has the right to appeal against the Association's decision. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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