John Reid tells Celtic AGM McDonald's position as referee is 'untenable'

CELTIC chairman John Reid last night delivered the strongest possible denunciation of referee Dougie McDonald and the Scottish Football Association at the club's agm. He decried the position of both as "untenable" over the official still being in place - despite McDonald admitting he had lied to Celtic manager and the match observer in an investigation into his rescinding of a penalty at Tannadice in September.

Celtic chairman John Reid, pictured, and chief executive Peter Lawwell say Dougie McDonald's shouldn't referee another Celtic game. Picture: SNS

Reid, backed by the club's chief executive Peter Lawwell in calling for a "fundamental review and restructure" of the SFA, opened up a new front in the long-running saga by becoming the first Celtic official to publicly demand the dismissal of McDonald.

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"No-one who has admitted to lying to our manager over important decisions should remain in post," Reid said. "He (McDonald] should go and if he didn't resign, then he should have been removed from post. There cannot be integrity in a system that allows a referee to lie and, allegedly, to try to get others to lie about a crucial decision affecting a game. There cannot be a system that permits that and retains integrity. So we need a fundamental review but there's no question that the referee should either be removed, or remove himself."

Lawwell stated that he would be "astonished, in the first instance" if McDonald was allowed to referee another Celtic game. "There are other ways of keeping him occupied, I'm sure, rather than sending him here," he said.

But both Lawwell and Reid were careful to exempt new SFA chief executive Stewart Regan from criticism over the handling of McDonald's conduct, Regan having announced his intention to overhaul and streamline the game's disciplinary procedures after the referee escaped with a warning from an eight-man referees committee, six of whom were his former colleagues.

"There's no question he is a man of integrity but he's got a very difficult job. There are 160 years of history and tradition in systems and processes that he's going to have to take on. He needs everybody's support," Lawwell said. "We have written to the SFA and Stewart is clear on our position that we think his position is untenable. This is an SFA problem and we just happen to be in the middle of it. A satisfactory outcome would be a transparency, an accountability and a system of procedures that satisfied all the stakeholders in Scottish football."

Lawwell's stance echoed that of Reid. "Now we have a new chief executive who appears to be determined to look at these things afresh, he needs the support of all of this. This game is bigger than anyone club," said the Labour peer. "If he's going to tackle this, it won't be an easy thing to do so we have to give him what support we can.I think you start with, not quite a blank sheet of paper, but you have to think the unthinkable and ask the big questions.

"It wouldn't inspire confidence if a referee who admitted doing this was allowed to remain in post to referee further games. It's not just wrong for Celtic. It's wrong for the game and it's wrong for the SFA. If, on the one hand, you're saying, we want to restore confidence in this game, but, on the other hand, we know an official has lied and conspired and there was an attempt to cover up the lie, but we're going to leave him at the centre of the game, then that undermines people's confidence in your readiness to change things.

"If the SFA have any sense of their own integrity and role in Scottish football, they should recognise this incident signals a lot and should, even at this stage, look again. His position is untenable and the position of the SFA is untenable in protecting him."

Reid played to the gallery at a shareholders' gathering. He floated the use of video evidence, said SNP sports spokesman Pete Wishart's suggestion referee's should declare their team allegiance was "maybe something that should be considered", and maintained that while Celtic "weren't looking for special treatment for Celtic, and never claimed to be better than anyone else, we won't be treated as less than anyone else,". "Those days are gone," Reid said, eliciting the loudest cheers of the afternoon.

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Otherwise, Neil Lennon's interventions received the heartiest acclaim, especially when the Celtic manager stated that the acceptable outcome from his first season would be "winning the treble". A more sober note was struck when one supporter appealed for Lennon to control his passions after he was sent to the stand during his team's defeat at Tynecastle last midweek and left facing a four-match ban for excessive mid-conduct. "What I said to the fourth official I'm told does merit a red card but if it does from what I've seen in my brief time in management there wouldn't be any managers left on the touchline. I'll go along and see the SFA, but I take on board what you say. I'll review what I say on the touchline from now on, but I'm a young manager and will learn from it."