Saturday, November 27, 2010

Referee Crisis: A Very Scottish Soap Opera


So Hugh Dallas has left the SFA. He clung on for a while. Perhaps he would have been able to ride out the storm over Dougie McDonald. Maybe he could have survived the eventual fall out from this weekend’s referee’s strike.

He might even have lived to fight another day in the wake of his less than judicious use of his work email around the time of the Pope’s visit.

But the three things together were insurmountable. Especially after, if certain rumours are to be believed, he had lost the confidence of SFA chief executive Stewart Regan.

As I wrote the other day I felt Dallas should have gone in the wake of his role in the McDonald farrago.

I’m also of the opinion that he stood in the way of modernising the way our refereeing system operates. Like many who have departed the SFA he doesn’t leave behind a legacy of achievement.

Sending the email was stupid and Dallas should have known better. But some of the outrage it has belatedly provoked seems manufactured. There’s not much about the whole affair that doesn’t seem distasteful and I include in that the Catholic church in Scotland getting publicly involved in an internal investigation by Dallas’ employers.

That, of course, is the price people pay for living in the public eye. And, rightly or wrongly, that was the position that Dallas found himself in.

As an atheist with agnostic sympathies I’m maybe not the right person to judge all of this. I can accept that. But I also find myself thinking of the times I’ve laughed at what might be called off-colour jokes on all manner of subjects. I’ve even cracked a few.

So I suppose when I hear some of the more hysterical condemnations of Dallas’ behaviour I find myself thinking “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Or “there but for the grace of whichever god go most of us.”

In the tragicomedy that Scottish football has become in the past week the email has become a distraction to sorting out a game in meltdown. Not a cause of the game’s problems but an obstacle in the search for a solution. With Dallas gone - professionally discredited, in my eyes, before he hit the send button back in September - we should be able to concentrate on getting the football back on track.

The challenge for Regan now is to replace Dallas, and the system he presided over, with something better. I wish him the best of luck. I fear he’ll need it.

Sadly Hugh Dallas is the not the first casualty of the recent controversies. That honour goes, once again, to Scottish football’s dignity.

At first it seemed like we’d be unable to find any countries willing to send us officials. Ireland, Wales, Iceland. One by one they said no.

Understandable, I suppose. It’s not a phone call you want from your boss:

“Fancy a busman’s holiday to Scotland? The forecast says snow which will add an hour minimum onto any journey you take, you’ll probably be called a scab. And if you make a mistake you’ll have your integrity questioned and your family might get abused.”

“Aye, nae bother. Sign me up. Beats a weekend in Reykjavik.”

Eventually Malta, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal came up trumps. Sadly our Polish and Portuguese men in the middle came, saw and promptly buggered off.

The Poles it seems thought they were on an exchange programme rather than a picket breaking trip. Like much else that’s happened this week, you really couldn’t make it up.

The SFA insist that all six SPL games will go ahead. I think they’re probably saying that while desperately studying the weather forecasts, hoping for a weekend whiteout that will put paid to at least some of the games.

At the end of another horrendous week for the SFA we still don’t know for sure that any games will go ahead on Saturday and Sunday.

Maybe a complete shutdown wouldn’t be a bad thing. If it takes a week without games to remind everyone that the game remains the most important thing then we might have salvaged something from this very Scottish soap opera.

> A Twitter rumour suggests Willie Young might be in line to take over from Hugh Dallas. Not the forward step we need. Very dapper fellow though. The only referee I’ve ever seen blow his nose with a black handkerchief. Complete colour co-ordination.