Referee McDonald says he did not initiate 'white lie'
Craven initiated cover-up - McDonald
By Brian McLauchlin
Dougie McDonald says it was his assistant referee Steven Craven who suggested lying about a decision during a Dundee United-Celtic match.
Craven resigned after the game, unhappy at emphasis placed on his role in a rescinded Celtic penalty.
He then told newspapers he colluded with McDonald to lie about how the changed decision was reached.
McDonald confirmed Craven's claims but argued it was in fact the assistant's idea to change their version of events.
McDonald awarded a penalty to Celtic at 1-1 in the match they eventually went on to win 2-1 at Tannadice on 17 October, before changing the award after speaking to linesman Craven.
The referee felt he had made a mistake, and asked Craven for confirmation, but the pair subsequently misled the match's referee's supervisor, Jim McBurney, saying that it was in fact the assistant who influenced the decision.
McDonald accepted that the observer was misled, but he insists he only became involved post-match once Craven had asked him about how they should explain themselves.
"I did not initiate the conversation," he said, adding that Craven had cut off communication to the ref's supervisor.
Craven told the Sunday Mail that McDonald had said they should agree to tell the referee's supervisor that he (Craven) had called to him to discuss the penalty decision.
McDonald has now told BBC Scotland his version of the discussion that took place in the dressing room after the match.
According to him, assistant referee Charlie Smith and Craven entered the room to discuss the game and it was at this pointthat Craven asked him what they should say to McBurney, who had been observing from the main stand at Tannadice.
I have not been asked to resign and I've not considered resigning because I don't believe that it's an incident worthy of resignation
McDonald said: "Steven pulled the communication wire from his arm device and took my earpiece out and he said, 'What are we going to tell Jim McBurney?'
"I said, 'Stevie, I don't care. Tell him anything. Just tell him you said 'Dougie, Dougie' and I came over and clarified.
"It was not some sort of pre-meditated idea to concoct some sort of story. It was merely a reaction.
"Stevie was concerned about what we would say. I really wasn't caring about that. I knew I was on a 7.9, a mark for a serious refereeing error for giving the original penalty.
"I was happy to go along with it in terms of helping Steven. It was no big deal to me to say that. In hindsight, I thoroughly regret it."
McDonald recalled that on his way home from the ground he decided to get in touch with the Scottish Football Association's head of referee development, Hugh Dallas, and come clean about what exactly happened.
"I texted Hugh, who was in a meeting with the class one referees," he said.
"I wanted to explain the situation as I was uncomfortable with what had happened. He phoned me back around 30 minutes later.
"When he phoned I told him what had happened with the incident, and told him what had been said to Jim McBurney and said I was not comfortable with that. He agreed.
"He (Dallas) was very angry, actually. He had a bit of a go at me for telling the observer the incorrect situation.
"He told me to speak to Steven Craven and that we couldn't stick with that version of events and that the truth would have to be told the next day when he was doing his media stuff and that would be the case."
McDonald says that when he called Craven the following morning to tell him what Dallas had said, it was clear his assistant was not happy to hear that the story was being altered.
"I think Steven was a bit upset that we had changed from what we had said in the dressing room and was probably a bit upset with me for telling Hugh that," added the referee.
"About 30 minutes later Steven phoned me back to say that he had had a conversation with Hugh and had confirmed what the truth was but he was still uncomfortable with me and Hugh in getting him to change from what we had said to the observer."
McDonald has since been reprimanded by the SFA, its chief executive Stewart Regan saying on Friday "that the post-match administrative process was not completed to the expected standard".
Despite that, he says that he has no intention of quitting the game and at no point has anyone from the SFA asked him to stand down. He insists that the events of two weeks ago and the aftermath will not drive him away from the game.
"I have not been asked to resign and I've not considered resigning because I don't believe that it's an incident worthy of resignation," he said.
"It's a storm in a tea cup. It's a situation that has arisen admittedly over an incorrect decision on the park, and I'm gutted at that, but I'm more disappointed with what happened after that.
"I content myself, though, that I corrected myself as quick as I possibly could."
Celtic are expected to give their response to the revelations on Monday.
Meanwhile, Hearts director Sergejus Fedotovas has called for more transparency, a general improvement in refereeing standards and the use of video technology to help referees avoid such problems in the future.
"Referees need to come out after the game and comment and explain their decisions," he said in a statement on the club's website.
"Refereeing is a big part of the game and people want to see high standards, hear the reasons behind decisions and gain clarification.
"There is no place for a high proportion of human error meaning low standards - it can easily be a cover for bias and match fixing.
"It is time that the Scottish FA implements a proper system of accountability otherwise the integrity of our game will be further diluted by future incidents.
"We would also urge the Scottish FA to continue its lobbying in world football for the implementation of video technology."
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