Anti-racism group angry as refereeing MP escapes SFA action
Show Racism The Red Card say governing body should have punished Douglas Ross.
A leading anti-racism group has slammed the Scottish FA' decision not to refer assistant referee Douglas Ross to a disciplinary panel for comments about "gypsies and travellers".
Ross, a prominent assistant referee who has officiated at cup finals and matches at international level, is also the Conservative MP for Moray. During an interview, he was asked what he would do if he were prime minister for one day.
His answer, that he would "like to see tougher enforcement against gypsies and travellers", was brought to the attention of Scottish football's governing body.
The matter was referred to the Scottish FA's compliance officer who reviewed the comments and decided there was no case for a potential rule breach to be referred to an independent disciplinary panel.
Show Racism The Red Card have written to the governing body and to UEFA protesting the decision, saying that Ross' remarks were "racist" and "irresponsible".
The group said that the Scottish FA was showing a failure of leadership by deciding not to act.
As a professional assistant referee, Ross is subject to the same rules as players, managers and others who hold an official position within the game.
The governing body's regulations include a rule on "comments of a discriminatory or offensive nature".
Though no formal action was taken, Ross was warned that he should pay attention to his language.
Following the compliance officer's decision, Scottish FA spokesperson said: "Mr Ross had been reminded by the Compliance Officer that he should give careful regard to the Scottish FA's disciplinary rules whilst under its jurisdiction."
In the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests, Ross declared earnings of more than £2700 for his work as an assistant referee in Scotland and Europe.
The payments included £1305 from the Scottish FA and £1436.65 from UEFA.
Show Racism The Red Card statement in full
"Show Racism the Red Card has written to both the Scottish Football Association as well as the Union of European Football Associations regarding the SFA not finding sufficient evidence that Douglas Ross breached the rule prohibiting officials from making comments of a discriminatory nature based on race or ethnicity.
"Ross' comments are a blatant display of racism and only serve to entrench divides and create a culture of intolerance toward Gypsy and Travelling communities: 'Illegal and unauthorised gypsy traveller encampments are a significant problem with the settled community continually complaining that gypsy travellers receive preferential treatment'.
"Ross would only have to read the recently published 'Is Scotland Fairer' report to know that Gypsy and Travelling Communities are the most disenfranchised groups across all indicators and Ross' comments are irresponsible and only serve to further marginalise Gypsy and Travelling community members.
"Moreover, under the McPherson definition of racism, Show Racism the Red Card perceives Ross' comments to be racist.
"So while the SFA may not consider it to be a breach of Policy, we deem this to be a racist incident under the law. Similarly, Amnesty International and a number of organisations have contacted us regarding this along with concerned community members as they too perceive it to be a racist incident.
"To this end, just like all leaders, the SFA are in a position of power and its actions as an organisation set a precedent to communities throughout Scotland and we are disappointed that the SFA are not using its powers to set an example based on Rights respecting values and equality for all.
"Moreover, if the Conservative Party has recognised the need for Equality and Diversity training for Douglas Ross, the S.F.A should take a stand too.
"In the same breath however, we do need to recognise all of the in-kind support that the SFA give our organisation but we feel in this instance, it is irresponsible to overlook Ross' divisive comments."