Time for a few brief updates on stories that we’ve been covering recently. These are all ongoing stories but there have been developments of varying degrees of seriousness lately.
Firstly, the Scottish refereeing debates, following the saga which I refuse to call Cravengate. Just over a week ago, Celtic called the dogs off, with a statement from John Reid welcoming and agreeing to wait for the review to be carried out by the SFA under their new Chief Executive Stewart Regan. What this will involve, and whether Celtic will be happy with it, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Dougie McDonald, the ref at the centre of the controversy, was back in action in the first division last weekend, and will be again in the SPL this week. However it’s impossible to see him refereeing another Celtic game, and my guess is that he’ll take early retirement after a discreet interval. Despite last week’s further revelations of anti-papal jokes being sent from his computer, Hugh Dallas will probably keep his job as the SFA’s reffing head man, but in a revamped structure that will see him come under more scrutiny and from more independent sources – there is general agreement that the current system that has only referees sitting in judgement on each other should change.
The truce between Celtic and the SFA lasted only until this Wednesday, when Neil Lennon lost his rag again and was sent to the stand after being unimpressed by a couple of decisions during their defeat at Hearts. Regardless of the merits of the decisions in question, his comments afterwards would – in the normal course of things – have a manager up before the beaks and see an increase to the automatic two match ban. It’ll be interesting to see, in the week that the SFA dished out an eighteen match ban to Derek Adams, whether they’ve got the bottle – or more to the point whether they feel they have the moral authority in the current climate – to treat Lennon similarly. Coming down hard on lower league managers is rather easier than those at higher-profile clubs. (Adams, incidentally, has since left Ross County to join Hibs as assistant to Colin Calderwood.)
Across the city, Partick Thistle’s problems continue. Firstly I have to make an apology – there’s a paragraph towards the end of my previous article on the subject which is so badly written that even I struggled to work out what I was trying to say. Since that article there have been no major developments, the positions of Chair and Vice-Chair remain unoccupied and the club is largely being run by David Beattie and Billy Allan, who have been on the board for a year or two despite being hailed in some quarters as newcomers. They are also two of the major investors in Propco, the company which has helped Partick lessen their debt by buying part-shares in some of the stadium. This is a complicated arrangement, but some supporters are worried about the apparent conflict of interest that this gives Beattie and Allan, particularly should the club ever go into administration. (Rumours that they were about to do just that were strenuously denied this week.) I don’t believe the conspiracy theories, myself, and don’t doubt their good intentions, but good intentions don’t balance the books and the cashflow problems remain.
Meanwhile the disputes between the board and the Trust are also unresolved, and currently held in abeyance. The Trust’s nominated rep still has not been invited onto the board, despite their shareholding in the club and previous agreements which they believe entitle them to such representation. The club, it seems, do not feel the Trust is representative of the supporters at large, and unfortunately the Trust have been doing their best to show they may have a point. A disagreement about future direction led to the resignations of several of the Trust’s committee members last week. However, they do still have that shareholding and a big role to play in the future of the club.
And what to make of the extraordinary developments this week in the Pakistani cricket squad? I was going to do an update on my earlier article anyway, to note the lack of further stories, or any further evidence of spot-fixing, let alone match-fixing, since the New of the World’s “scoops” in the summer. Until this week, when wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider chucked petrol onto the fire, disappearing from the squad in Dubai and turning up in London to claim asylum, alleging he and his family have been threatened after he refused to throw to one-day internationals against South Africa last week. The Pakistani Cricket Board and the international authorities have reacted with bewilderment, particuarly at the manner in which Haider revealed these threats, and the story so far seems to have been a little vague and contradictory, but all of that is potentially understandable even if true. It goes without saying that this is extremely serious, and once again we’ll have to await developments. My suspicion is that there’s rather more to this story than meets the eye.
In the meantime, there remains precious little evidence – or actually, none at all – of any kind of fixing from any examination of Pakistan’s games, with the one exception of the case that the News of the World themselves provoked and paid for. (Their other spot-fixing allegation, in the one-day series, came to nothing.) The Sydney Test in January is the other game usually quoted – and was quoted by Mazhar Majeed himself to the NotW as having been fixed. I expressed scepticism about the exact logistics of this, and have since come across this very good article on an Aussie sports website which goes into it in more detail. Basically, the suggestion that this Test was rigged doesn’t stack up.
Meanwhile, the three players involved in the no-ball incident are expected to hear shortly if they’ll be charged, along with Majeed, whose involvement with Croydon Athletic is also believed to form part of the investigation. (Hence the football connection, however tangential.)
There will probably be more to follow, then, on all of these stories. And of course on my usual pet topics – Scottish league reconstruction and Dundee, who today lodged their appeal against their 25 point penalty. I don’t think it’s quite going to rival last year’s Chester City saga, but that one has some way to run yet.
Follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter here.