Charities dedicated to ridding Scotland of the scourge of sectarianism reacted swiftly to the shocking revelations, a story broken on this site, that Hugh Dallas, the chief of the Scottish Football Association’s refereeing department had, on the day of the Pope’s visit to the UK in September, sent an email “joke” intimating that His Holiness was a danger to children.A spokesperson for the anti-sectarian charity he Organisation “Nil By Mouth”
“The Hugh Dallas pope email story which appeared in the Scottish press over weekend is an almost classic example of offensive and derogatory humour which is still sadly regarded as acceptable by some individuals and employers in Scotland today. On this occasion the media interest has been generated by the nature of the individual’s public profile; however this story forces the question about how much sectarian behaviour still goes unchallenged in today’s workplaces.
Employers can be slow to realise that their legal responsibilities in terms of religion and belief lie far beyond the logistical challenges of providing prayer rooms and agreeing uniforms. Employers in Scotland need to quickly and seriously consider the responsibility placed upon them by the new Equality Act, and in its wake be both increasingly mindful of standards of conduct and sensitive to behaviour masquerading as humour. The last thing anyone wants is for humour to be outlawed in the workplace, life is grim enough as it, but then again surely we should all be able to work in an environment of mutual respect where expected standards of conduct are clear and apply to everyone. It’s time employers realised that their legal responsibilities now extend to addressing our home grown problems, even the hard to tackle ones.
Currently Nil by Mouth’s main project is about supporting employers to take the steps required to address the taboo subject of sectarianism in today’s workplace. The scheme being developed is about taking practical steps to deal with culture issue, which raise eyebrows but don’t always prompt action. The SFA are very aware of our work in this area, and I will again be offering them the opportunity to adopt our workplace scheme and accept our help to implement it. It sounds like they need it.”
The campaigning organisation “Show Racism the Red Card” which seeks to rid soccer in the UK of racism and sectarianism also condemned Dallas behaviour.
Elio Ajmone, Project Manager said:
“With reference to the recent press reports regarding Hugh Dallas, Show Bigotry the Red Card finds it unacceptable that he has made inappropriate comments about the Pope’s recent visit to Scotland.”
Kieron Brady of Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance said:
“The recourse of the Scottish Football Association in this is critical regarding sectarianism. If there is no action then it begs the question about the genuine nature of any campaign against religious intolerance, that is of course working on an assumption that there is an authentic effort to rid the game of this social cancer. Allowing impunity on this matter sends out all the wrong signals in a wider and social context and the thought of an organisation such as the Scottish FA suggesting that anti-Catholicism is acceptable in its own environment would only serve to reinforce many allegations that anti-Catholicism, and anti-Irishness, is an embedded ethos at varying levels within the organisation.”
Peter Kearney, Spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said:
“Hopefully the SFA will investigate thoroughly and act firmly over this matter”
These statements were made earlier in the week while the Scottish Football Association had refused to make any comment ion the affair and the man at the centre of the row, Hugh Dallas, was unavailable.
Unconfirmed reports stated that Mr. Dallas, on hearing that the row was about to break into the public domain had headed to London with his wife hoping that the row would blow over.
This afternoon SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, issued the following statements:
“I can confirm I have looked into the circulation of the email reported in the media at the weekend. Let me state categorically that I do not condone the transmission of any email content that might cause offence to anyone.
“I have spoken with staff and the matter will now be dealt with internally, in line with the Scottish FA’s Information Systems Acceptable Use Policy.”
It remains to be seen if Hugh Dallas will be disciplined for this incident and whether or not his punishment will be made public.
Stewart Regan is rapidly finding out that you only get one chance to make a first impression.
He may have arrived in Scotland without any baggage, but he is now burdened by the organisation he now has to steer into the 21st century.