I’m not a lawyer, but in the last few months I’ve learned a few things about defamation.  Paul McBride IS a lawyer, and a good one at that, but he should ask for a copy of my lecture notes before he opens his mouth again and further libels the SFA.

“Dysfunctional”, “dishonest”, and “biased” were three of the words he used in his rant after the SFA allowed Ally McCoist’s appeal against his two-match ban.  Dysfunctional is fair comment (a valid defamation defence) but dishonest and biased?  That’s blatantly defamatory, and the SFA should take him to task for this assault on its reputation.

Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which the UK has ratified – states that “No one shall be subjected to … to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation” and that “Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”  Surely Mr McBride knows this, so what drove the eminent QC to ignore the law of the land?

Well, he’s upset because Neil Lennon was given a ban after the Old Firm “shame game” and Ally McCoist wasn’t.  And also that two of the Rangers players sent off – Majid Bougherra and El-Hadji Diouf – didn’t get extra sentences on top of the ones they received for their red cards.

Let’s analyse.

Neil Lennon received a ban for physically assaulting the coach of a visiting team.  Guilty as charged, m’lud – I saw it on the telly.  But thanks to the lawyerly cunning of Mr McBride, he doesn’t have to serve that suspension.  Due to a legal loophole in the SFA’s rulebook, he served it concurrently with another ban – one received for abusing match officials earlier in the season.  So Lennon, in effect, got off scot-free.

Ally McCoist was originally given a two-game ban for whispering sweet somethings into the ear of Neil Lennon.  And this is a punishable offence because…?  Maybe the old men of the SFA finally remembered their playground days: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”  If McCoist ‘phoned Lennon and said the same thing during the call, would the SFA object then?  No, I don’t think so – and a quiet wee whisper between friends is no different.

Majid Bougherra and El-Hadji Diouf were sent off (Diouf twice) and thus received mandatory suspensions – they will miss the start of next season’s Scottish Cup.  McBride is upset they didn’t get extra punishment.  For a start, they did – they were each fined thousands of pounds – and secondly, why should they get extra suspensions?  The referee saw what they did on the night, and punished them for it by sending them off.

The irony of the situation is the people that are going to suffer the most are Celtic themselves.  When Lennon, Lawwell, & co stopped with the “siege mentality” bullshit – sometime around Thanksgiving – Celtic started putting together the run of form that sent the Hoops to the top of the league and into the final stages of two cups.

Now they’re back at it again, and at a crucial time in the league run-in – just over a week before the final Old Firm game of the season.  As if there won’t be enough of a frenzy in the buildup to it already – I’m sure at least one extra wife in Strathclyde will be getting a battering that night as a consequence of the extra hype this nonsense has generated.

Look, we all know the SFA disciplinary process is broken – dysfunctional, even.  The SFA admitted as much in the aftermath of the Tannadicegate/Dallasgate fiasco, and Henry McLeish noted it in the second part of his report on Scottish football.  It will, eventually, get fixed.  But accusations of bias and dishonesty against committee members – some of whom are chairmen of SPL clubs – are not the way to set about reforming the game.

Johann Mjallby, Neil Lennon’s assistant, put it best: “Maybe we all said words that shouldn’t have been said.”

He said this in January.  He was talking about his manager’s original ban, but he should repeat these words tomorrow, because they couldn’t be more true.


El Hadji v Neil Lennon v Ally McCoist


  1. The only person to bring the Scottish game into disrepute is Lennon . I don’t think in all my years of watching football, have I ever seen a manager/coach beaving in the way that Lennon does…Coach , he is not , loose cannon , he certainly is …

  2. When Lennon, Lawwell, & co stopped with the “siege mentality” bullshit -”

    Which is your opinion which you are, of course, entitiled to express. Why do you want to see Paul McBride sued for doing the same?

  3. “..and secondly, why should they get extra suspensions..”

    Because that’s what happened to other (non rangers) players in the past.

  4. The use of the word libel shows exactly how much you have learned about defamation in Scotland.
    Hint – it doesn’t exist.

  5. Three things are clear from this article. You are a Rangers fan, you have very little understanding of the disciplinary procedures of the SFA (the precendents of the Lennon, Mikolunas verdicts) and you should have paid more attention in your lectures.

  6. why dont you put on a blue shirt while you are at it,no bias you take the cake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Billy, Lennon did not get off “scot free”. He was still given a 4 match ban, regardless of whether he served the whole ban, part of the ban or none at all, he still received an official ban. Now when he gets his ban, it will be his 3rd, not his 2nd, so the punishment will be even severe. Ally McCoise however, will have his next suspension seen as his 1st, so will only be banned as a first time offence.

  8. Highly amused to see Billy being “accused” of favouring the teddy bears here… Wake up people, his name is Billy effing Williamson ffs!

  9. Billy, came across your comments not as a usual subscriber but surfing through some of the news on the SFA’s latest committee meeting. I thought I had stumbled across a site that may have given some unbiased view but was quickly disappointed by your submission. It is clear that you have a blinkered view of events. This is a shame as clearly by your reference to lecture notes you have either undertaken training or deliver training in legal matters. If the latter is the case then you really need to look closely at yourself and consider appropriateness of your posting. If your are educating impressionable minds then I worry for the future of fairness and impartiality in the legal profession. If on the other hand you have undertaken training then you have missed the most important lesson and do no credit to the profession you have entered. This country could be a great country but with people like you I fear we will, as a nation, drag our heels through the murky mess of another country’s problems. Shame on you.

  10. Thanks for the interesting comments. If you are a regular visitor, you will know that Billy is indeed a Rangers fan and a Scotland fan. And while I don’t always agree with him, he is generally one of the most fair-minded and intelligent people that I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

    Anyway, Billy is probably tucked up in bed in China right now but I’m sure he’ll address some of these points in a few hours from now….

  11. Thanks all for the comments.

    @James: My words don’t damage the reputation of others – McBride’s do. That’s a key difference.

    @llienomot: See Mikoliunas comments below.

    @Anonymous 10:05am: I didn’t study Scots Law, correct, but as I understand it you can still libel someone in Scotland, you just sue for defamation whether you’ve been libelled or slandered.

    @Anonymous 10:17am: (1) Correct, as The Dear states, I’ve never tried to hide my perspective – it doesn’t automatically make me wrong, though (2) Re: Mikoliunas, fair point, I never saw the Mikoliunas incident but reading the reports it looks like a bit more than what Bougherra or Diouf did… although I was quite drunk at 5am in Thailand while watching the end of the ‘shame game’ so you may think otherwise (3) I have an exam at the end of the month so let’s wait until after that before making judgements on my legal understanding, eh?

    @Anonymous 12:38pm: You’re right, there is an implication for Lennon, but I did say “in effect”. And whatever makes you think he’ll be getting another ban?!

    @Ronnie: Don’t worry, I won’t be teaching your children, or anyone else, on matters legal – I just had to study some media law lately – and I’m sure you’ll be happy to know I don’t live in Scotland. But on your last point: nothing I said has anything to do with religion or Ireland. I would say as long as people keep dragging Ireland and/or religion into arguments when it’s not relevant, Scotland will be held back. So shame on *you*, sir.

  12. Firstly, a convention which is ratified by the United Kingdom government does not make it law of the land – far from it! Secondly, if Paul McBride’s claim that they were dishonest and biased can be backed up with evidence then it is not defamatory. There is no remedy available for someone saying something which the SFA doesn’t agree with but which can be shown to be true. Mr. McBride QC knows very well about the law of delict and will have chosen his words very carefully. If the SFA did take legal action, it would be a long slog.

  13. Hopefully now, after his death, this will be put to rest. McBride was a brilliant lawyer regardless of what side of the courtroom you viewed him from.