Scottish Football Association: Stench of Corruption Lies Over the Scottish Game

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Scottish Football Association: Stench of Corruption Lies Over the Scottish Game
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Ask yourself what you would think, if a colleague, in a report on his or her own actions, lied. Not made a mistake, not got a minor detail wrong, but lied?

Now ask yourself, what would you think if his or her supervisor, and manager helped compile this false report?

You'd be forgiven for thinking there was something dishonest, if not downright corrupt going on. Yet this is exactly what has transpired in Scotland today.

Now it's a stock-in-trade of Scottish sports hacks that Celtic fans are paranoid. Over a long number of years their fans have complained about institutional bias against their club and in favour of bitter rivals Rangers. This is easily dismissed by the footballing establishment in Scotland as typical Celtic paranoia.

Celtic fans have coined a new phrase to describe the seemingly endless series of controversial decisions over the past three seasons which have benefited only one club - "Honest Mistakes." An echo of the stock defence trotted out by the media in Scotland to explain even the most controversial of decisions going against the Parkhead club.

The problem for Celtic fans in proving this bias is that it is just conceivable that these decisions really are honest mistakes. Referees have a split-second in which to make their decisions and with no recourse to the dozens of slow motion replays from every conceivable angle the fans get to review on their television screens.

Referees are only human and they do make mistakes. There appears to be a statistical anomaly in that so many of these mistakes disadvantage Celtic and/or help Rangers, but deniability is always there.

Until two weeks ago on Sunday that is. With Celtic tied at 1-1 with Dundee Utd, a collision in the penalty box between Celtic's Gary Hooper and Dundee Utd goalkeeper Dusan Pernis saw referee Dougie McDonald point to the spot and award Celtic a penalty kick. Incredibly, McDonald then reversed his decision.

What followed seemed to provide the smoking gun moment Celtic fans have long sought.

The following morning, SFA Head of Refereeing Development Hugh Dallas, himself no stranger to controversial decisions going against Celtic, appeared in the press defending McDonald, who, Dallas claimed, had changed his mind on the advice of assistant referee Steven Craven.

Dallas very clearly stated that Craven had intervened, calling McDonald over to tell him it was not a penalty. Dallas claimed that Craven, some 30 yards away from the incident, had a better view than McDonald, who was no more than 5 yards away.

There are two things wrong with Dallas' account. First of all, assistant referees are not allowed to intervene where a referee has seen an incident and dealt with it. Therefore, Craven would have had no business calling the referee to tell him he was wrong.

Secondly, Steven Craven then denied initiating the conference with McDonald and promptly resigned in protest.

The plot then thickens. In his report on the match, Referee Observer Jim McBurney wrote:

"At the immediate post match discussion when I asked why Mr McDonald ran over to AR2 [Craven] I was told that the assistant had communicated via the headset shouting 'Dougie, Dougie'."

So in the public domain, in the four or five days following the match, we have both the SFA's Head of Refereeing Development, AND the SFA's Referee Match Observer claiming that assistant referee Steven Craven had, in contravention of the role of the assitant referee as specified by FIFA, intervened in the penalty incident to inform McDonald that no penalty should be awarded.

Following on from Steven Craven's resignation, and a letter from Celtic FC requesting clarification as to why the orignial decision to award them a penalty was rescinded, new SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan launched an inquiry into the incident which reported today.

Regan completed his inquiry earlier this week, and, having no competency to discipline referees, handed his findings to the SFA Referees Committee to deal with. A committee composed, with just one exception, entirely of ex-referees; friends and former colleagues of McDonald.

The Referee Committee reported today (29th October 2010) and its findings truly are astonishing. Its statement read:

"As is appropriate in these circumstances, Dougie, unprompted, decided to approach the assistant referee, Steven Craven, who had assumed the required position for the taking of the penalty..."

So the SFA report into the incident contradicts the explanation of the incident advanced by the Head of Refereeing Development, AND the SFA's own match observer. Yet incredibly, McDonald remains unpunished, being merely issued with a, "warning," over his failure to, "articulate," properly the role played by Craven in the decision, and his conversation with the official match observer.

Let's forget for a moment whether Celtic should have been awarded a penalty or not. That is not the issue here. The issues are, WHY did the referee change his mind, and why are there inconsistencies in the official story?

Sources also tell me that SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan is privately seething about how the Referee Committee has dealt with McDonald. He had recommended that either McDonald be allowed to resign with the SFA's best wisher, OR that he be dismissed.

One thing is certain. We have not heard the last of this matter. A Scottish referee took the highly unusual step of changing his mind over an important, game-changing decision, and has fabricated events in his report. This also encompasses not only the referee, but the Head of Refereeing Development and the Referee Observer, all three of whom claimed that Craven initiated the decision to reverse the penalty award, which the Referee Committe themselves have denied.

The statement issued by the Referee Committee today amounts to, "there was a cover-up, but we're not going to do anything about it."

Something is rotten at the heart of the Scottish Football Association.

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