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Page last updated at 22:15 GMT, Monday, 29 November 2010

Celtic feel 'vindicated' by ref Dougie McDonald's exit

Dougie McDonald and Hugh Dallas
McDonald and Dallas have left the Scottish Football Association

By Alasdair Lamont

Celtic feel "vindicated" in their stance that referee Dougie McDonald should be sacked, according to a high-profile QC close to the club's board.

McDonald retired on Sunday, more than a month after he admitted lying about his reasons for denying Celtic a penalty.

That came two days after Scotland's head of referees, Hugh Dallas, was sacked over a controversial e-mail.

"There is no sense of triumphalism at Celtic Park, but there is a sense of quiet vindication," said Paul McBride.

"Celtic's view was clearly that he had to go. His position was completely untenable and their view was that Hugh Dallas had to take a decision about his own future and that's now been done."

McDonald had initially suggested that assistant Steven Craven had alerted him to his mistake in awarding a penalty to Celtic against Dundee United on 17 October but later admitted that he had changed his decision because he himself immediately realised his error.

The referee was warned about his future conduct following an investigation by newly appointed Scottish Football Association (SFA) chief executive Stewart Regan.

There's no guilt at Parkhead. It is like asking the victim of assault whether they feel guilty for being assaulted

Paul McBride

But Celtic believed that the SFA referees' committee should have taken stronger action against the official.

Head of referee development Dallas was subsequently investigated over an e-mail sent from his account that was deemed to be offensive about the Pope.

And McBride says that those departures now afford the SFA the opportunity for Regan to complete his promised overhaul of the governing body.

"This is a kind of Berlin Wall moment for the SFA," the QC told BBC Scotland. "The edifice has come down and we do have to start again.

"We have a number of apparently unconnected events starting from a simple decision not to award a penalty to Celtic.

"That was never the problem. It was the way it was handled afterwards - the periods of silence, periods of denial, potential issues involving cover-ups.

"They have brought it upon themselves and it's their responsibility to Scottish football to start again.

"Celtic want to move on and want to move on for the benefit of all the clubs in the SPL."

The furore over recent refereeing decisions culminated in Scotland's category one officials withdrawing their labour at the weekend, complaining of concerns over their personal safety as a result of criticism of decisions and performances.

It led to the postponement of all Scottish Football League and Scottish Cup fixtures and the introduction of foreign referees at Premier League games.

"There's no guilt at Parkhead about that," said McBride. "It is like asking the victim of assault whether they feel guilty for being assaulted.

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan
Celtic believe they can work with new SFA chief Regan

"What happened at the weekend was directly the result of a referee telling lies, head of development sending an inappropriate e-mail and incompetence at the SFA. Nothing to do with Celtic Park.

"They raised the issue at Celtic Park six weeks ago and nothing happened at all at the SFA during that period in time. And it is only now that the referee has decided to go."

McBride did not wish to speculate about whether Celtic's pressure had forced McDonald to make his decision.

"You would have to ask him what's caused him to go, but his position became untenable the minute he accepted he lied to a Celtic manager and lied to his employers," said the lawyer.

"We have heard about intrusion into referees' private lives.

"The chairman of Celtic Football Club and the chief executive have been abused and insulted by the media.

"And, if I remember correctly, there's only been one Celtic manager in Scotland who has been attacked and that is Neil Lennon.

"He was attacked in the street by individuals, so let's bear all these things in mind."

McDonald apologised for lying but complained about the SFA failing to act long before that incident against clubs, managers or players who accused officials of bias.

Celtic chairman John Reid recently said the days were gone when his club would accept being treated "less than anyone else".

Asked if Celtic felt there was bias against them, McBride said: "There is primarily incompetence and institutional prejudice - and prejudice in the sense that they have not looked properly at their structures in the way they deal with issues that come before them.

"There is also no transparency and there is no accountability and, when you don't have any of those things, it is easy to build up a picture of bias."

McBride says Celtic believe Regan is "someone with whom they can do business".

"We found, when Dr Reid was home secretary, he said that parts of the Home Office were not fit for purpose," added McBride.

"That applies to the SFA and there has to be a root and branch review of what happens there from now on.

"There's three elements that must be satisfied. There must in the future be transparency, there must be accountability and there must be no conflict of interest in any of the committees."

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see also
Ex-referees' chief criticises SFA
29 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
SFA chief glad of calls for talks
29 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Referee McDonald opts to retire
29 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
No repeat of referee strike - SFA
28 Nov 10 |  Scotland
Israeli ref felt misled on strike
27 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Refs' concern at Dallas sacking
27 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Refs' chief Dallas sacked by SFA
27 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Referee strike wipes out SFL card
26 Nov 10 |  Scottish League
Scottish referee crisis explained
22 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Scottish referees vote to strike
21 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Celtic call for referee to resign
18 Nov 10 |  Celtic
Celtic welcome SFA referee review
07 Nov 10 |  Celtic
SFA promises ref system overhaul
04 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Ref warned after Tannadice probe
29 Oct 10 |  Scottish Premier

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