Dougie McDonald has announced his immediate retirement as a Category One Referee. The 45-year-old quits after his controversial penalty u-turn decision at Tannadice, kicked off the whole Refgate fiasco, that led to officials going on strike at the weekend.
McDonald admitted in an exclusive interview with the BBC, that he had lied to Celtic manager Neil Lennon over the reasons why he did a u-turn over the penalty decision as well as the SFA Match Observer, and Celtic subsequently demanded his head on a plate but the SFA Referees Committee just gave him a smack of the wrist and warned of his future conduct.
McDonald in a statement said, “It is with regret that I have decided, with immediate effect, to retire from my role as a category one referee. My category one colleagues decided rightly to withdraw their services from matches this weekend in response to the outrageous way they have been treated by sections within Scottish football and, in my opinion, the lack of support they have received from the SFA General Purposes Committee in recent years. However, their united stand, and the position of strength they have established this weekend, has been clouded by one issue, namely the aftermath of the Dundee United v Celtic match on 17 October. I apologised for my role in that and wanted my previously unblemished 29-year career to move on. Now is the time for all of Scottish football to move on.
“My decision will therefore remove that issue from the debate and ensure that the next day of action – which, in my opinion, will undoubtedly come if the football community does not have a massive change of heart – will result in media coverage being concentrated on those who engage in referee bashing and those who condone it.”
So while most of the Scottish Football fraternity are blaming Celtic for the whole fiasco, with their outspoken views, the man in the middle of it all has pointed to years of criticism and suggested that it is a much deeper problem than just with the Parkhead side.
“It is also important to make clear that just as this issue is not about Dougie McDonald alone, nor is it about Celtic Football Club alone, the truth is, since I became a class one referee, managers or players – and sometimes directors – at almost every club, at one time or another, have been guilty of such behaviour. The only difference being the degree and tenor of the criticism and the inferences from it.
“The constant has been the unwillingness of the SFA General Purposes Committee to deal with it. I suggest they check the meaning of phrases such as ‘wasn’t impartial’ used by Aiden McGeady and ‘conspires to’ used by Peter Houston and consider whether we want those used in Scottish football.”
After dropping down to the First Division the week after, McDonald returned to the SPL to officiate the game between Hibs and Motherwell on the 13th November, reiterating that he had no intention of quitting.
Celtic chairman John Reid at the club’s AGM called for McDonald to resign or for the SFA to take the appropriate action.
“If the SFA had any sense of their own integrity, they should look at it again,” said Dr Reid. “His position is completely untenable. The SFA’s position on this issue is also untenable.”
McDonald is the second high-profile SFA casualty of the weekend, following on from the sacking of Head of Referee Development Hugh Dallas, after he breached SFA internal protocol by circulating a controversial image relating to the Pope and Child Abuse via the governing body’s official email system.