The Catholic Church in Scotland has officially written to SFA chief Stewart Regan and demanded that controversial Referee chief Hugh Dallas be sacked after he sent an email on the day of the Pope’s visit last September insinuating that His Holiness was a danger to children.
The letter was faxed and emailed to Hampden Park today, 24th November 2010. A scanned copy of the letter can be viewed on this site.
“I was shocked but not surprised when I read that insulting email about the Pope had allegedly been sent by a senior SFA official on the day the Pope visited Scotland.
I consider this email to be unprofessional, gratuitously insulting to the Pope, deeply offensive to the Catholic community of Scotland, and an incitement to anti-Catholic
Anti Catholic bigotry in Scotland is not the widespread problem it once was but background bigotry still exists.
Too many people still think it is acceptable to insult and demean Catholics in a way that they would never consider with other faiths.”
Kearney was unequivocal about what should happen to Hugh Dallas.
“If it is proved that the email concerned was sent by the Head of Referee
Development at the SFA he must be removed from his post.”
Kearney also took aim at the SFA for the time the internal inquiry had taken:
“ Frankly the fact that the matter has not been conclusively resolved by now undermines the integrity and credibility of the SFA. Regardless of the outcome in this
particular case, the ability of the SFA to campaign against sectarianism in
football is severely undermined by this episode.
To retain any credibility in this area the SFA must act urgently, to:
investigate fully the allegation being made, divulge completely the results
of their investigation and then act very firmly to reject all allegations
that they have fostered or tolerated anti-Catholic bigotry.”
On the subject of how widespread sectarianism he said:
“Some commentators try to dismiss the problem of sectarianism by saying that
‘one side is as bad as the other’ or it is no more than drink fuelled post
match rivalry. An analysis of Crown Office statistics between June 2003 and
September 2004 of Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003,
which allowed for an offence to be proved to have been aggravated by
religious prejudice showed that 450 charges were submitted to Procurators
Fiscal. Of these cases, 108 were analysed in detail by the Crown Office to
provide qualitative information on the implementation of the legislation.
The study discovered that 29% of cases were of anti-Protestantism and 63% of
cases were of anti-Catholicism, interestingly, only 14% of incidents were
football related with a further 15% being linked to parades or marches.
It is a fact that most incidents relate to breach of the peace and not
assault. However we should be disinclined to minimise the impact on
individuals who suffer verbal abuse during a breach of the peace incident in
this way. Such verbal assaults can often be the precursor to actual physical
attacks and must therefore be treated with the utmost seriousness.
It is also accurate to point out that police officers were victims in 36%
of cases. Equally however, we must point out that in 64% of cases, they were
not. In the same vein, while in 49% of cases, alcohol is a factor that still
means that in most cases it wasn’t. Furthermore, it may be the case that
alcohol features in many other crime statistics but I don’t think its
presence should be allowed to minimise in any way the actions of those, so
Also, while it is technically correct to point out that the religious
identity of the victims is not known (nor do we know if the religious
identity they ascribe to themselves would accord with that used by any
Christian denominations) it seems clear that the underlying motivation in
each instance is either anti-Catholic or anti-Protestant.
With this in mind, and in view of the fact that in 63% of the cases,
offenders are targeting Catholicism, I’d incline to the view, that what we
are presented with is an appalling and dismal image of entrenched hostility.
I am not convinced that we can attribute a religious affiliation to the
perpetrators based on their targets and certainly the data does not
support this, although it seems self evident that sectarian violence whether
verbal or physical would be unlikely to emanate from anyone with genuinely
The most instructive use of these statistics is to express incidents as so
many per 100,000 of the relevant population. Out of 110 incidents where
section 74 of the Criminal Justice Scotland Act 2003 was applicable, 31
(29%) are described as targeting Protestants and 68 (63%) as targeting
Catholics. If we assume that the population of Scotland is as close to 5
million as makes no difference, then there are around 850,000 (17%)
Catholics and 2,450,000 (49%) Protestants in the population.
This means there are 8 abuses of Catholics per 100,000 of Catholic
population and 1.3 abuses of Protestants per 100,000 of Protestant
population. Hence a Catholic is over 6 times more likely to be abused than a
Protestant. Sectarianism in Scotland is deeper, wider and altogether more
pervasive than often reported. A further study in 2006 of “aggravated
sectarianism” data reached the same conclusion.
Still some may ask on a day-to-day basis are Catholics really excluded from
any walk of life. The answer is simply “yes”; by law no Catholic may become
Head of State or marry the Head of State. With royal wedding fever in the
air, we’d do well to remember that state sponsored sectarianism in the form
of the Act of Settlement is still on the statute books. Until we accept the
depth, nature and extent of the problem we cannot realistically expect to be
able to tackle it.”
This journalist has learned that Stewart Regan is furious with SFA staff for not keeping him in the loop on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th as the SFA were being contacted by journalists about the existence of the “Dallas email”.
The first that the SFA knew that the Dallas email was “out there” was when I had called their media department just after 14.00hrs on Thursday the 4th.
I had wanted a comment from the SFA and in doing so, of course, informed them that I knew of the email’s existence.
I was able, in that conversation, to tell the SFA media spokesperson the date, time and title of the email and describe the email’s jpeg attachment including the title of the jpeg.
As I was describing the Jpeg as best I could the press officer cut across me:
“It’s ok I’ve seen it.”
I then asked:
“Has this email been getting passed around the office from computer to computer?”
He went silent, considering what he had just admitted On The Record to a journalist.
“No! No, not at all!”
I have to take him at his word, but from what this SFA employee told me there was at least two in the building that had seen this jpeg “joke” about His Holiness. Being a threat to children.
SFA insiders have since told me that that a decision was taken to tell Dallas to head off for a few days with his wife till the media storm blew over.
I understand that Regan was not party to this media strategy and was furious when he learned of the incident on Sunday after the story had been broken on this site.
I was told:
“Regan has made up his mind that he needs a total clear out of the old guard at the SFA. The Dallas email and how it was handled was the last straw.”
It remains to be seen if Stewart Regan will be successful in clearing out the sectarian old guard from the SFA.
I contacted Piara Powar head of the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), which is a network of publicly funded organisations, which seeks to stamp out racism and bigotry in football.
After reading the reportage of the Dallas email story and looking at the email itself he had this to say:
“The FARE network deplores all manifestations of sectarianism, however trivial they may seem, or whatever the motivation. Sport, and football in particular, have too long been areas through which hatred of another because of religious or ethnic background has been played out.
“The fact that this email seems to have originated from the heart of the SFA administration is not an indication of institutional tolerance and appreciation of diversity. It is our hope therefore that the SFA moves quickly to demonstrate that institutional sectarianism and bigotry is not part of their decision making, or that of any SFA staff.”
Regular visitors to this site will know that leading Scottish Catholic and internationally acclaimed classical music composer James MacMillan has also called for Dallas to be sacked.
So far Dallas has resisted any calls for his head. Despite the story breaking three weeks ago he has yet to emerge and make a statement about this story.
Now with the Catholic Church in Scotland now officially calling for Dallas to go it is difficult to see how he can hang onto his job for much longer.