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Jim McBurney's observer report of Dundee United v Celtic in full

STV can publish the report referee observer Jim McBurney submitted to the SFA after the controversial fixture.

Dougie McDonald's handling of an angry Neil Lennon was praised but the referee received a below average mark.
©SNS Group

STV has obtained a copy of Jim McBurney’s referee observer report for the Dundee United v Celtic fixture on October 17, 2010, in which referee Dougie McDonald withdrew a penalty award to the visitors.

Following the statement by the SFA on Friday afternoon, in which it is claimed “Dougie, unprompted, decided to approach the assistant referee, Steven Craven”, it can be shown that this eventual version of events contradicts the statement made by McDonald to McBurney after the match.

The following text contains extracts from McBurney’s comments in that report, with the relevant discrepancy brought to the top.

Additional comments (brought to top from bottom of report)

In the 69th minute a penalty kick to the C [Celtic] team was awarded. Mr McDonald was immediately met by DU [Dundee United] players. AR2 [Craven] had now positioned himself at the junction of the 18 yard line and the goal line, ready to view the expected penalty kick.

At the immediate post match discussion when I asked why Mr McDonald ran over to AR2, I was told that the assistant had communicated via the head set shouting "Dougie, Dougie".

A very brief discussion took place where the AR was asked if the DU keeper had touched the ball to which the AR confirmed it had. Based on this the penalty award was rescinded and a drop ball given.

While the correct decision, to rescind the penalty, was achieved the situation was very messy. The award, from a clear viewing position, should not have been given though once it was and realising before play had restarted it was the correct action to rescind.

Shortly after, the fourth official called Mr McDonald over to warn the C coach regarding his behaviour after the drop ball. The instruction to the referee was to warn the C coach. This was done in a correct manner.

Description of match

A high tempo match that seldom flagged over the 90 minutes. The match was played by two teams playing in a positive manner that gave more play in the penalty areas than normally seen. Players were fully committed but there was little by way of malicious foul play.

Tempers did fray resulting in four players being cautioned for their aggression. Played in front of a nearly full stadium with a vocal crowd. Conditions were very good in both underfoot and weather.

Application and interpretation of the Laws of the Game / match control, tactical approach and management of the game, quoting details and time(s) of specific incidents

While I had few differences with the referee, I felt comfortable with the greater majority of Mr McDonalds awards. This match threw up more penalty box incidents than normal. I was in agreement with all but an award given in the 69th minute but that was subsequently changed after a brief discussion with AR2.

I felt that the award originally given against DU1 [Pernis] for tripping was not correct, his opponent fell over the keeper after he had played the ball away. I regard the initial award as a clear, important mistake. Several of the other penalty box incidents had little merit but others demonstrated sound judgement.

Tactics were dictated by the nature of the game, there was little scope for loosening the grip of this high tempo match. There were several good advantages played to the games benefit though the 70th minute advantage to Celtic after DU10 was not appropriate, coming shortly after the change of award the recently introduced substitute should have been penalised right away and warned to his future conduct.

Disputed situations

69th minute: Penalty awarded incorrectly. This award was changed after consultation with the AR2, a drop ball was the correct restart in the circumstances.

64th minute: The ball strikes the arm of a DU defender. Correctly no foul as the ball was struck with force from close to the defender whose arm was not in an un-natural position given the circumstances.

79th minute:  C18 goes to ground after colliding with DU 3. I feel that the attacker made more of the collision than there was. I agree that there was no foul though this a not straightforward decision.

9th minute: Clear push by DU18 not punished, referee in good position.


Despite occasions when inwardly calmness would not be the emotion felt, Mr McDonald projected a calm image. Good management of players with willingness to talk to them to encourage good conduct.

General comments, advice on performance and personality

A performance marred by a poor decision that gave the referee much difficulty, raising the tempo of an already high tempo match. While it was rescinded the incident was unnecessary, and messy. Outwith this incident, it was a good performance in a game that had frequent decisions to be made.

Positive points discussed with the referee

1) Good management of players.
2) Correct and consistent sanctions.
3) Outwith the 69th minute, other penalty area decisions were correct.

Points for improvement discussed with the referee

1) From a good, clear viewing position an important decision [was] incorrect.

Overall mark given to referee: 7.9.

A mark of this number indicates one clear, important mistake has been made. The full evaluation scale is as follows:

9.0 – 10: Excellent performance (outstanding)
8.5 - 8.9: Very good (a highly commendable performance under quite challenging / challenging circumstances)
8.3 - 8.4: Good (an efficient performance, referee should maintain this standard)
8.2: Satisfactory with minor areas to develop
8.0 - 8.1: Satisfactory with specific areas for improvement
7.9: One clear important mistake, otherwise 8.3+
7.8: One clear important mistake, otherwise 8.0 - 8.2
7.5 - 7.7: Below expectation (significant point(s) to improve)
7.0 - 7.4: Disappointing (considerable improvement necessary)
6.0 - 6.9: Poor performance (unsatisfactory)
5.0 - 5.9: Major breach of interpretation of the Laws of the Game


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