Monday, November 29, 2010

Referee Crisis: Dougie McDonald's Retirement Statement

The world is watching. What damage can today's newspapers do?

Apparently even Barack Obama has told aides to forget about Wikileaks and bring him the latest missives from Scottish football's very own diplomatic crisis.

The newly retired Dougie McDonald has released a statement.

Imagine that we, Scottish football, are Margaret Thatcher. Dougie McDonald is our Geoffrey Howe.

The key point - for those of us who are of the opinion that Scottish football's survival is tied up in the ability to actually play games - is that another strike will happen.

Or at least that is Dougie's opinion.

In no particular order, seven talking points from Dougie's diatribe:

1. The SFA don't come out of Dougie's parting shot all that well. The strike is due, in part, to the "the lack of support they [referees] have received from the SFA General Purposes Committee in recent years."

2. Hugh Dallas has been hard done by, a victim of "appalling treatment" by the SFA. (Making Dallas a unique victim of Celtic, the Catholic church and the Scottish football establishment. Depending on who you listen to.)

3. Aiden McGeady and Peter Houston are mentioned by name for attacking referees. "Every club" is at fault, managers, players and directors. "The only difference being the degree and tenor of the criticism and the inferences from it."

4. Media pressure has become "intolerable."

5. McDonald's actions at Tannadice have "clouded" the refereeing issue:

"Now is the time for all of Scottish football to move on.

"My decision will therefore remove that issue from the debate and ensure that the next day of action – which, in my opinion, will undoubtedly come if the football community does not have a massive change of heart – will result in media coverage being concentrated on those who engage in referee bashing and those who condone it."

6. Cynics among us might say that Dougie's statement is a touch self important. He doesn't entirely dispel that feeling by referring to himself in the third person. But he also stresses that recent events aren't just about Celtic:

"It is also important to make clear that just as this issue is not about Dougie McDonald alone, nor is it about Celtic Football Club alone."

7. Things need to change. And clubs need to pay the price (through point deductions?):

"If things are to change for the better, clubs need to ensure their employees leave referees to do their job and the SFA has to deal strongly with those clubs who find it impossible to focus on the football. The current leniency of the SFA and the system of paltry fines and ineffective bans are proven to have zero impact.

"If the clubs are genuinely concerned about relationships with referees – and hopefully they are after this momentous weekend - and they want to make changes, they should have no fear in signing up to a disciplinary system that will see more stringent penalties and ones that have more direct impact on clubs, rather than their errant employees."

So there we have it. McDonald feels the referees have established a position of strength this weekend. That may or may not be the case. Still, at least now we have a name for the strike the next time it happens: "Day of action."

I'm not sure the statement (full version at STV) moves us on at all. Not a mea culpa. A threat of more action to come. But is he speaking for himself or for all referees?

Defending Hugh Dallas doesn't do McDonald any favours. An attack on the SFA is hardly earth shattering. It seems that the only consistency you get from the SFA is that everybody finds it a ridiculous organisation.

McDonald feels hard done by. He's had his say. He's told us nothing new.

But he's right. We do need to move on. A brief resignation statement would have helped us do that more than a diatribe.

And he is also right that this is about more than him. More than Celtic. It's about our game in crisis. Our game becoming ungovernable. We need to do something about that.

It's time to talk. It's time to get this sorted.