Date: 23rd November 2010 at 12:11am
Written by:

If any Scottish football fan has recently returned from a remote desert island, it may be worth typing “Dougie McDonald” into Google – if you want something to fill the next few days of your time. I can`t be bothered going over it all again.

Suffice to say, McDonald has refused to resign ?. the SFA have not moved to dismiss him? and Celtic officials have been “widening” the club`s initial campaign of questioning some specific incidents, thanks to recent comments from Messrs Reid, Lennon and Hooper.

Oh – and apparently Hugh Dallas may or may not have forwarded a joke email relating to the Pope`s visit to Scotland.

Despite impending job cuts, a severe terror threat, fuel price increases, a never-ending war abroad, a second financial crisis and a crazy tram project which is threatening to bankrupt Edinburgh, its only right that we should put all these to one side and worry instead about who`s going to referee our SPL matches this weekend !! And more importantly – will they give our opponents a dodgy penalty ? If they do, the least we can expect is for our club to “seek clarification”, surely.

2 things struck me about the news of the referee strike. First, SFA chairman George Peat revealed that the referees are NOT actual employees of the SFA, yet the SFA has a contract to supply referees for the SPL. Isn`t that a bit odd ? Apparently, each referee has a “contract” with the SFA, as Peat put it – but is not an employee of the SFA.

Of course, many modern day commercial companies work that way – simply “buying in” skills for a fixed contract period, often engaging a preferred recruitment agency to manage the process. So the SPL engage the SFA to provide a skilled (ahem? ) refereeing service, and the SFA sign them up on external contracts.

That means that the process of sacking a referee should actually be simpler then we first imagined – since the duties and responsibilities should be laid down in a Terms of Engagement contract, while the referees will have fewer rights under Employment Law.
You`d have thought that McDonalds wobbly “yes I did, no I didn`t” report after the Tannadice incident was likely to breach some clause in his contract relating to honesty and accuracy.

Second was the language used by Peat – “The culture of inference, innuendo and conspiracy theories must stop”.

Well, yes ? it must stop – but what are you going to do to make them stop, Mr Peat ? Fine Celtic ? Sack McDonald ? No need to do either, actually – why not just turn the focus on Mr Fedotovas` comments a couple of weeks ago, and slap a nice big fine on Hearts ? After all, that`s what you usually do.

Former referee Kenny Clark explained in a BBC Newsnight interview that referees and their families have been victims of threats and verbal abuse in recent times, and that he believed disrespectful behaviour by club officials influenced some fans to behave badly to referees outside of football matches. He also claimed that “other clubs” had criticised the integrity of referees before the current Celtic incident – but only named Hearts. No mention of Walter Smith publicly inferring that a linesman with a Celtic “connection” had been dishonest to disallow some Rangers goals. So the referees` distress seems to have been started by Hearts, and simply tipped over the edge by Celtic !!

Although I believe there is considerable merit in what Celtic have done by initiating this campaign to reveal the dishonesty related to a single incident, their wider grievance is something which most fans of non-Old Firm teams simply will not identify with – as revealed in the language used by their Chairman Dr John Reid last week – “We’re not asking for special treatment, but neither will we be treated as less than anyone else. Those days are gone.”

Gosh – were those days ever here ? I hadn`t realised that for all these years, Celtic were being treated as “less” than Hearts. Presumably “less” than Hibs, Motherwell, Hamilton and Kilmarnock too. Ask fans of any of these clubs – I`m sure they`d all hold their hands up and admit that their team regularly benefit from outrageously dodgy decisions going their way when playing Celtic, same as they do when playing Rangers !

Talking of Rangers ?. enough of this nonsense. We all know that the “anyone” referred to by Dr Reid isn`t actually “anyone” at all – it`s that team from Govan, of course.

And it`s at this point that those of us fortunate enough to support “anyone else” just disengage. Too many Celtic and Rangers fans are prisoners of their clubs` history and over-the-top bitter rivalry, together with the hijacking of it by non-football forces that has occurred along the way.

It seems that Celtic`s lasting grievance comes down to a simple comparison – do Rangers get more dodgy decisions going their way over a season than Celtic do ?

Who knows. Maybes aye, maybes naw. I`m simply not interested.

Some early Christmas shopping this weekend, then ?