Date: 17th June 2019 at 2:07pm
Written by:

One of the biggest stories of the weekend was one of those I chose to leave until today, because it requires a more in-depth piece than a mere couple of paragraphs.

The story about the SFA referee who posted sectarian messages on social media, was caught, was incredibly allowed to stay on their list and was about to be promoted to Grade One status but then had to resign because his position had suddenly become “untenable” asks more questions than it answers.

I find the whole thing incredible, and damning of the governing body. It paints a dark picture of our association, and its respective branches.

One of those branches conducted its own inquiry and gave him a slap on the wrist, apparently believing that sectarian bile and anti-Neil Lennon hatred was not worthy of instant dismissal. And the SFA whilst being “troubled” by that – or so we’re told – did nothing further.

You realise reading it that a lot of people within the Hampden sphere of influence would have been perfectly content – happy perhaps – to see him rise right to the top, to take games involving our club, with this on his record.

How else are we to view this?

I mean, the SFA allowed his branch to get away with this?

To hand him a mere warning, which for all we know was a thinly disguised “don’t get caught next time” rather than one about the conduct itself. Any other association would have had this guy out in the street there and then, his name forever linked with disgrace.

But the SFA allowed him to jump first, and years after the fact.

They’ve given him an opportunity to dress up his departure as one where he expresses regret and shame; if he had any regrets he’d have resigned at the time.

If he had any shame he would never have stayed in post in the hope that one day he could send Neil Lennon to the stand or worse.

Honestly, how does the SFA think they look here?

The governing body has acted deplorably and behind the scenes Celtic should be asking serious, searching, questions about why this individual was allowed to continue climbing the ladder over there as if what he did was perfectly alright, and only now, with him on the brink of the SPL grade, has it become a problem.

It was always a problem, and if my understanding of the case is correct it went beyond mere anti-Celtic sentiment and into the kind of thing that may even have broken the law. That the press refused to publish details of what he put up is telling in itself.

What kind of internal mechanisms are then when this guy can stay on the ref’s ladder and get so close to the final rung before somebody up at Hampden said “Wait a second here …”?

It’s worth wondering if perhaps they’ve been prompted into doing this because the threat of this case being leaked to the press has been raised with them; in other words, you wonder if this is an act of altruism or one of self-preservation.

Their conduct in relation to this raises those questions almost automatically.

Nothing should surprise us at this point.

Certainly, with Lennon back at Celtic as manager, the fallout would have been of Chernobyl proportions had this story leaked after he’d been given one of our games.

I can’t shake the feeling that the SFA acted out of a desire to protect itself rather than in the best interests of the sport. It is obvious what that sort of action would have looked like, and it would have involved a very public sacking long before we got here.

Ian Maxwell seems to think he’s done us all a favour here, and acted to protect the integrity of the game just because he’s forced this guy to consider his position now. But if the SFA CEO could so easily compel him to do so, why wasn’t he compelled to do so much earlier?

His position “has effectively become untenable” the report said at the weekend.

Was it not untenable from the moment his social media posts came to light?

What kind of organisation are they running here?

The kind, one presumes, where sectarian jokes get passed around on the internal communication system and only one man loses his job.

I mean, does the SFA really believe, or does it want us to believe, that keeping this guy on their refs list was somehow acceptable just because he wasn’t yet at the level where he could do Celtic games? How can Maxwell or his cohort say that with a straight face?

Does the SFA care about weeding sectarianism out of Scottish football? No, because they tolerate inside their own house and we’ve always known it was there. Evidence of it leaks out like this every so often, and nothing real happens to change it.

Consider too that this is the organisation that spends much of its time lecturing fans and clubs about this very issue, which makes this stink all the more. The reeking hypocrisy of an organisation which has several times tried to force Strict Liability onto the clubs whilst it protects its own in-house bigots … well it just beggar’s belief.

Celtic should be raging over this, but they should be a little satisfied too as it virtually nails down our case against the SFA over officials having to declare their allegiances.

The need to reform this lot has never been clearer.

Who the Hell knows what other grubby secrets they are keeping behind the walls?

The whole organisation is a disgrace, and those who would argue that referee’s allegiances don’t matter and that we shouldn’t be digging in to all these wee local associations that operate like personal fiefdoms … well they ought to take a long, self-imposed, vow of silence.

They are largely silent anyway.

The only story getting less coverage than this is the one involving Ashley’s latest victory over Dave King, which has not appeared in a single media outlet so far although the verdict was released on Saturday and every Celtic site has commented on the story, with some of them having dissected every bit of the judgement.

It was ever thus though.

Remember that in 2010 it was a journalist living and working from Ireland who broke the Hugh Dallas e-mail story, a story which has echoes of this one and in particular because they date back to the same period in time.

It should shame our local hacks that a guy who isn’t even based here and thus can’t put in the old shoe-leather type of journalism which usually breaks open major stories got to publish that one first, and here’s the thing; as with so many other stories, it was not that he possessed magical powers and was able to find things others couldn’t. Phil isn’t a miracle worker. He’s just a guy who’s prepared to print what others can’t or won’t.

There are some hacks who are not up to the job.

There are others who do the job the way they are told to do it.

(“We were told to call him a billionaire …” Dear God!)

There are some who are easily cowed by PR pit-bulls and there are others who just don’t care.

If it wasn’t for Phil and a handful of others, we would live in darkness for want of someone flicking on a light.

When that light shines on the SFA it reveals some ugly stuff.

That’s why we need more of it.