Former ref Stuart Dougal defends SFA Bougherra decision

Madjid Bougherra (left) attempts to prevent referee Calum Murray issuing a yellow card
Bougherra (left) attempted to prevent Calum Murray issuing cards

Former Grade One referee Stuart Dougal believes football rules prevented the Scottish Football Association handing a stiffer punishment to Madjid Bougherra.

The Rangers defender was given a £2,500 fine after laying hands on referee Calum Murray during a stormy Scottish Cup defeat by Celtic on 2 March.

Critics suggested that Bougherra should have received a suspension.

But Dougal says that the SFA's hands were tied as referee Calum Murray did not deem the action as aggressive.

"Based on the criteria the disciplinary committee were working with, I don't think they have failed," Dougal told BBC Scotland.

"If he as the referee viewed it as violent conduct, we are talking a whole different ball game.

"He wasn't threatened, there was no violence and in his eyes there was no aggression towards him."

Dougal's former referee colleague, Kenny Clark, warned that another referees' strike could result from the lack of action taken in such circumstances.

Grade One officials took such an action earlier this season following a barrage of criticism, particularly from Celtic, following a series of decisions.

"I don't disagree with Kenny in saying that players shouldn't be laying hands on referees," said Dougal.

"But there will be no strike based on this. That was a wee bit sensationalist.

"What happened the last time was a built up over years, not over one, two or three comments.

"We need to be fair to the SFA in terms of what could they actually do based on the criteria at the moment.

"I think they would have liked to have done it, but I think they were unable to do it.

"That will change, I am sure the they will insist that if any player lays hands on any match official there will be at least a two-match ban and probably more."

This week's disciplinary committee decision also led to stinging criticism of the SFA from Paul McBride, the QC who has represented Celtic manager Neil Lennon before the SFA.

McBride was angry that Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist won his appeal against a two-match touchline line ban following a confrontation with Lennon that led to the latter winning his legal battle to have his own recent suspensions run concurrently instead of consecutively.

The QC was also critical of the decision not to hand further suspensions to Bougherra and Rangers forward El Hadji Diouf, who was shown a red card for dissent after the same game, and also received a £5,000 fine.

However, Dougal thought that McBride and Clark, as lawyers, should have taken into consideration that the disciplinary committee's power to act was limited by its rules in light of the referee's report.

Dougal was generally uncomfortable with the increasing intrusion of lawyers into the workings of the game.

"Everybody accepts that there is etiquette and you don't lay your hands on the referee, but when you have lawyers and QCs sitting analysing every word and the position of the referee then the SFA, particularly what they have gone through with Mr McBride and Celtic, need to be bullet proof," he said.

"If you want to take a legal mind to go through any rule book, whether it be the SFA's articles, English FA, go through other sports, then there are holes to be picked.

"But where does it leave the game? I think we are going down a very dangerous road.

"Football should be allowed to police itself and, if you want to participate in football, you have got to accept the rules as they are."

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