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In a testament to how dull and insular Scottish Football can truly be another “scandal” has reached its natural zenith in Caledonia. The tediously named “Ref-Gate” fur ore has been gently simmering for the past few months with Celtic and Neil Lennon in particular stoking the flames to over boiling point.

The end result is today’s announcement that Scotland’s first grade officials intend to strike in response to the “Avalanche of flack” they have received in recent times. They cite a concern for public safety (a recognized hazard of the profession in Glasgow) as their main fear but it is more a riposte to the concerted campaign from Glasgow’s east-end.

Dougie McDonald

The perfect storm first started to rumble in the aftermath a Celtic vs Dundee United game in October. The referee in charge was Dougie McDonald and he was found to have lied about a penalty decision explanation to the Celtic coach, Neil Lennon. The details are fairly tedious but the up-shot was Celtic were given ammunition for their long held conspiracy theories that the referees/establishment are a cabal of Protestant/British/New World Order/Extra-Terrestrial lizards who deliberately hamper the clubs pretensions of world domination.

To further bolster their cries of foul-play questionable decisions against Celtic against Hearts and Rangers cemented their resolve. The fix was in and the at last the conspiracy mongers had their smoking gun. Players, managers and politicians have since rushed in to seize the opportunity to bathe in the limelight and garner favour from the fickle, fans.

Neil Lennon was first to point the finger in a brilliant exercise in tactical, distraction. His team had been largely outplayed against stronger outfits such as Rangers, Braga and FC Utrecht. His protestations were a chance to deflect attention from his team’s obvious limitations his striker Gary Hooper was next  when he claimed that Celtic were consistently persecuted by greater forces in the game.

This left only the bastions of integrity i.e. politicians to step in with their opinions. First was SNP sports spokesman Pete Wishart who called for referees to be forced to declare which team they support. Thankfully this was shot down in flames by all and sundry. His ill-advised foray into unwelcome lands was treated with normal scorn.

This left former Defence secretary John Reid to further stoke the flames. Now considering Reid was part of the government that invaded another country on the premise of a lie his opinions could be treated with caution in regards to integrity. However as Celtic Chief Executive it was his role to placate and cajole the fans at this week’s AGM. He didn’t disappoint calling for wholesale changes in the referee system north of the border and McDonald’s immediate resignation.

This in turn has culminated in the proposed Industrial action by the referees, frankly an embarrassment to the Scottish game. Hopefully it will all blow over until the next “Gate” scandal. Linesman-gate, Ibrox-gate, Boozegate 2? Take your pick. Let’s just hope the journalists have the imagination to name any scandal with more than the tiresome suffix.

Watergate – which started it all


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