Gordon Smith: Case against Winters was doomed from the very start

WHEN Gordon Smith witnessed what he believed to be a case of simulation by Livingston striker Robbie Winters at Ochilview two months ago, he was within his rights as SFA chief executive to seek action. But it was the manner in which Smith pursued the issue which saw the case against Winters rejected by the SFA's disciplinary committee last week and became a contributory factor in the 55-year-old's departure from his post.

A regular attender at matches throughout the senior leagues, Smith turned up at a Third Division fixture between East Stirlingshire and Livingston on 20 February. As a crusader against simulation, he felt Winters took a dive when he was challenged by Michael Bolochoweckyj in the 57th minute. Referee John Beaton penalised Bolochoweckyj for a foul and issued the Shire defender with his second yellow card. Livingston were leading 1-0 and following Bolochoweckyj's dismissal, Winters scored their second goal in a 2-0 victory.

Little was made of the incident at the time with East Stirlingshire manager Jim McInally offering no complaints for the nature of his team's defeat.

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Smith, however, is understood to have encouraged East Stirlingshire officials to submit a DVD of their own footage of the match in order to bring a case against Winters. On 12 March, Livingston received correspondence from the SFA indicating Winters was alleged to have committed an act of simulation. Livingston chairman Gordon McDougall, who was not at the match, sought clarification from the SFA disciplinary department who told him their review panel had viewed the DVD and decided there was a case to answer.

McDougall pointed out that the SFA's own disciplinary regulations, which state both club and player should be informed in advance of any decision to refer a matter to the review panel, had been breached. He also asked the SFA who had reported Winters.

He received a letter from the SFA's disciplinary department on 19 March which said: "There is no allegation or complaint made against your player. Our chief executive, Gordon Smith, had been in attendance and witnessed the incident.

"During a conversation with East Stirlingshire officials at the end of the match, Mr Smith indicated he had witnessed what he believed to be an act of simulation but that no action could be taken as no video evidence was available. It was then confirmed to him that the club was recording the match and that if the incident had been captured a copy of the footage would be provided to him. This was duly submitted by East Stirlingshire FC."

It was the first time footage had been supplied by one club to prosecute an opposition player since video evidence was made admissable by the SFA in 2004.

Yet the case was always destined to be rendered incompetent as referee Beaton had acted upon the incident at the time and was not asked to review it.

On 12 April, Winters went to Hampden with McDougall for his case to be heard. It was thrown out within 10 minutes.

Two days later, the SFA informed McDougall that East Stirlingshire vice-chairman Spencer Fearn had submitted a complaint against Winters on 23 February. Yet this was never previously intimated to Livingston or the disciplinary committee, hardening McDougall's belief that Smith had driven the case.