The challenge on Gary Hooper precipitated the cover-up
So the saga of the penalty-that-never-was rumbles on.
Following on from the investigation into referee Dougie McDonald's decision to rescind the penalty he awarded to Celtic at Tannadice two weeks ago, more revelations have appeared in the Sunday tabloid, The Sunday Mail.
Let's quickly re-cap the story so far.
After awarding Celtic a penalty for a challenge on striker Gary Hooper by Dundee Utd goalkeeper Dusan Pernis, referee Dougie McDonald astonishingly reversed his decision after consulting with assistant referee Steven Craven.
When questioned after the match by the referee's observer, Jim McBurney, as to why he had changed his mind, McDonald told him that his attention had been drawn by Craven, who shouted, "Dougie, Dougie," into his earpiece.
This was included by McBurney in his official report on the match. McDonald also informed the SFA's Head of Refereeing Development, Hugh Dallas, that the discussion had been initiated by Craven.
The following day, Dallas appeared on Radio Clyde's Superscoreboard programme and repeated this version of events, insisting that the match officials had done everything by the book.
On the 22nd of October, the SFA website ran a report on referee Willie Collum, looking forward to taking charge of the Celtic-Rangers match after, "another week of unjustified and manufactured controversy surrounding the events of the Dundee Utd v Celtic match last weekend."
Clearly, five days after the incident at Tannadice, someone at the SFA was happy that there was nothing amiss. Despite the fact that their own Chief Executive, Stewart Regan, was in the midst of an investigation into the issue!
The one fly in the ointment for the Association was assistant referee Steven Craven, who disputed the official version of events.
Craven denied that he had initiated the discussion with McDonald and resigned his position, amidst unsubstantiated claims emanating from the SFA that he and his family had been on the end of threats from Celtic supporters over his part in the decision to rescind the penalty award.
On Friday, the Referee Committee of the SFA reported its findings: McDonald had lied about the process of rescinding the penalty, but he reached the right decision and was to escape with a warning. In other words, "there was a cover-up, but we're not going to do anything about it."
Yesterday, Craven's side of the story was presented in full and it must make for painful reading for the powers that be at Hampden Park.
First of all, Craven did NOT resign over death threats. He explained that one of his sons had had comments made to him at school, but in Craven's words, it was, "nothing he can't handle."
Craven resigned because not only was he blamed unjustly for the furore surrounding the penalty reversal, but also because of a campaign of bullying and intimidation of officials by Hugh Dallas and his assistant, John Fleming.
According to Craven, McDonald asked him after the match to say that he had called his (McDonald's) attention to inform him the penalty should be rescinded. The pair then told this to Celtic manager Neil Lennon, referee's observer McBurney and Head of Refereeing Development Dallas.
Craven said, "Dougie said we should tell the referee supervisor that I called him over to question the penalty award. He claimed it would give the decision to overturn the spot-kick more credibility."
The question must be asked, why would the decision require more credibility?
Strangely, McBurney accepted this version of events even though he was wired up to the officials and could hear all communications between them throughout the match.
The pair then went on to repeat this lie to Celtic manager Neil Lennon when he asked for an explanation of the decision after the final whistle. Craven says, "Lennon came into the room after the game and asked Dougie why he hadn't given the penalty. We told him the version that was a lie."
Afterwards, Craven regretted having lied about who initiated this discussion and telephoned Hugh Dallas to inform him that he had not initiated contact with McDonald.
Incredibly, Dallas tried to pressure him into continuing with the deception and the following morning told various media outlets the concocted story that Craven had initiated the discussion which led to the reversal of the penalty award.
Dallas told Radio Clyde on Monday evening, "The assistant referee did come along the goal line to take up position but at the same time then exchanged information and asked the referee what exactly the penalty was given for?"
This does not say outright that Craven initiated the discussion, but it contradicts Craven's version of events. He said, "I thought he had the perfect position. There was no way I could question him. He then ran towards me and said, 'I think I've f***ed up. Did the keeper get a hand to the ball? I told him I believed the goalie had played the ball and that it wasn't a penalty. So he decided it should be a drop ball."
The positions of McDonald, McBurney and Dallas must surely now be untenable. Between them, they concocted a story to, "give more credibility," to McDonald's overturning of a penalty award. Dallas repeated this line on a live radio broadcast 24 hours after they had come clean.
McBurney, even though he was wired to the officials' earpiece, accepted the version of events relayed to him by McDonald and Craven, and in his report, submitted to the SFA on Tuesday, two days after Craven and McDonald revealed their deception, STILL included the lie that Craven initiated the decision to overturn the penalty award.
The received wisdom seems to be that the correct decision was reached in the end, but that is beside the point. A huge question mark hangs over the integrity of McDonald, McBurney and Dallas.
The integrity and honesty of the game must be seen to be above reproach, and that is certainly not the case in Scotland tonight.