Paul McBride’s war of words with the SFA

Posted on by C Adey

Paul McBride QC first came to my attention when it was announced that he was hired by Celtic to defend Neil Lennon against a six match ban. McBride successfully won the case and managed to get the ban reduced to four matches, in doing so ingratiated him to Celtic fans and will presumably have ruffled a few feathers at the SFA in the process.

McBride has now found himself involved in a war of words between himself and the SFA over a recent disciplinary decision involving Rangers players and staff.

During the Scottish Cup replay, between Celtic and Rangers, two Rangers players, Madjid Bougherra and El Hadji Diouf, were invloved in on the field incidents. In addition to this, Ally McCoist had a touchline spat with Neil Lennon during the customary shaking of hands at the final whistle. The three were up in front of a SFA disciplinary panel to determine their punishment. Bougherra and Diouf were both sent off in the game, however, on this occassion, they were up for offences which were not dealt with on the day. McCoist had received an automatic two match ban for his offence, but he appealed this decision and was due to hear the result of this.

The SFA, rightly or wrongly, decided to uphold McCoists appeal and fine Bougherra and Diouf, although they stopped short of dishing out any bans. To say this decision was controversial is an understatement and unsurprisingly the media were all over it. Due to McBrides recent dealings with the SFA, it made sense to ask for his opinion and what followed has been scintillating.

It was Radio Scotland who interviewed McBride and when asked about the recent disciplanary hearing, he had the following to say: “The SFA are tonight officially the laughing stock of world football,” McBride continued: “And they have been shown to be not merely dysfunctional and not merely dishonest but biased, because McCoist – who undoubtedly said something that provoked a reaction from Neil Lennon that caused a four-match ban for him – has received no punishment. We know that Bougherra – who manhandled the referee not once but twice – doesn’t get a ban. We know that El-Hadji Diouf – who was involved in an altercation in the tunnel with a Celtic physiotherapist, refuses to leave the park when given a red card and throws his top into the crowd against police advice – isn’t given a ban either. What is any sensible person to think of that set of affairs?”

This was a damning summary of events and McBride pulled no punches with the language used, which included “dysfuntional”, “dishonest” and “biased”. If he was not a QC, I may be concerned that it was unwise to use such words in a public attack, but I am no legal expert, so I assume he understands the severity of what was said.

The SFA were never going to sit back and take this attack, but I did not expect them to come out  in the manner they did.  The SFA released the following statement in response:

“The Scottish FA is shocked and angry at coverage in today’s newspapers following an interview given by Paul McBride QC to BBC Scotland.
Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan would like to make the following points:

1. We note that Paul McBride does not act on behalf of or as a spokesman for Celtic FC, its manager, or anyone associated with the club.

2. In making his unjustified and inflammatory remarks, Paul McBride appears to be acting as a self-publicist and not as a QC.

3. Paul McBride’s wild and inaccurate statements are defamatory and appear to be malicious.

4. The Scottish FA is now considering, with the benefit of legal advice, whether to sue just Paul McBride for damages or whether to also sue other parties.

5. A formal complaint is being made to the Faculty of Advocates with respect to the way in which Paul McBride has allowed himself to be held out as making comments to the media in his capacity as a QC.

6. We are aware that many observers and members of the public would appreciate clarity on the decisions made at yesterday’s meeting of the Disciplinary Committee. It would be inappropriate to comment publicly on committee decisions until the seven-day time frame for any appeal has elapsed.”

On the face of it, I would think that the SFA threat to sue McBride – who is a QC himself – is a mistake, although as i said earlier, I am no legal expert and I am sure the SFA are receiving the best possible legal advice available to them.

It’s at this point that the whole saga seemed to be turning into a playground war of words, but it hadn’t ended yet, with McBride feeling the need to respond to the SFA statement.

McBride told the BBC: “In the unlikely event that they were mad enough to take legal action against me and apparently every media outlet they say who has printed what I’ve said, then I would look forward to vigorously defending my position.”

“The comments I made about them were fair, they were accurate, they were in the public interest.

“The public would be interested, in the unlikely event of this going to court, in seeing behind this inept, incredulous and neanderthal organisation.”

The SFA are yet to respond to the most recent response, but I suspect they will and this saga will continue for the foreseeable future.

C Adey

Owner of Scottish Football Forums. A fan of all forms of football, whether its being at the game, watching on TV, playing 7 a side, playing FIFA, playing Football Manager, or simply talking about it

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