Why I have no sympathy for Pope mocking Scottish ref!

Scottish referees chief Hugh Dallas cooked his own goose the minute he forwarded an email mocking the Pope.

As Pope Benedict XVl toured Scotland in September, former World Cup referee, Dallas and some colleagues at the Scottish Football Association were chortling over the email linking the Pontiff with child abuse.

I don’t know whether it ever crossed the mind of Dallas that his little “joke” would be considered offensive by Catholics- not just in Scotland, but throughout the world.

But it should have at least made him think twice as a senior figure at the SFA - the  supposed guardians of the fight against sectarianism and bigotry in Scottish football.

It was clear that if that email ever became public knowledge then Dallas’ position at the SFA would become untenable.

Dallasgate as it has now become known was exposed by a brave, investigative journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, who like his more illustrious Watergate predecessors  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein before him doggedly refused to be cowed by  attempts at a cover-up.

Dallas was already under serious scrutiny after assistant linesman Steve Craven  resigned his position publicly alleging bullying and harassment by the refs chief following the penalty incident at Dundee United that sparked the referees crisis.

It soon emerged that referee Dougie McDonald  who had reversed a decision to award Celtic a penalty admitted to Dallas that he had lied to Hoops manager, Neil Lennon over the circumstances surrounding the spot kick controversy.

Dallas then  failed to make that  lie known to Celtic or Lennon sparking the referee’s row that has engulfed Scottish football. And ended up in a strike.

But  it is the email-which the Catholic church  denounced as offensive- that finished Dallas not his attempts to shield McDonald’s lie.

It was an email that would have been equally offensive to followers of  Islam, Judaism or even the Church of Scotland if their leaders had been insulted in the same way,

Apologists for Dallas have claimed, while the email was crass and tasteless, it was just a “wee bit of fun.”

As someone whose family left Scotland in the 1950s to escape these “wee bits of fun” that were regularly dished out to Catholics, I don’t have an ounce of sympathy for Dallas.

He used the SFA’s internal email system to peddle a discriminatory message of the sort his employers were publicly pledged to wipe out.

The minute that this was made public he should have been suspended and an internal investigation started. He should have been history very quickly.

But SFA chief George Peat bizarrely went public with an insistence that rumours and innuendo  must cease.

That peculiar stance did not deter Mac Giolla Bhain in his search for the truth and when the probe into Dallasgate finally got underway the World Cup refs days were numbered.

The official reasons behind his departure is still to be confirmed  but there is no doubt that Dallas jumped before he was pushed after Thursday’s disciplinary hearing.

The SFA have been brought into disrepute over the saga and now have to repair the damage and mistrust caused by the actions of their former referees chief.

First they must bring in new discrimination training and  make sure they rid themselves of  any employees  who are not totally committed to anti-sectarian policies .

And then they must offer an unequivocal  corporate apology to Scotland’s Catholics over the outrage Dallas has caused.

Let’s hope that the end of Dallasgate signals the start of a more fair, just, and understanding society in Scotland.

But I am not holding my breath in anticipation.

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williamhill.com

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