Great Honest Mistakes of Our Time: Part Umpteen

Even by the usual standards of Scottish football season 2010-2011 was especially bonkers. Just taking the subject of referees in isolation, in October we had the unedifying spectacle of Dougiegate at Tannadice, following which referee McDonald resigned having lied to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and attempted to get his fellow officials to cover his ass.

Despite the club taking a pretty passive stance during all of that, Celtic were rounded on by swathes of the media for putting pressure on match officials which led to the refs announcing that they were going on strike on November 21st amidst claims that some of them had been the recipients of death threats. More lies, as not one legitimate complaint was received by the police.

Then, on 26th November Hugh Dallas and five others resigned after Phil MacGiollaBhan revealed the referee supervisor had forwarded ignorant and offensive emails about the Pope while at work.

And this was just three months into the season!

On a personal level, Neil Lennon had been the subject of a spate of deeply sinister abuse for months involving bullets and suspect packages in the post as well as the usual death threats, all of which culminated in his being assaulted by a lunatic at Tynecastle. This was witnessed live on TV by an audience of millions. The culprit was later found not proven in a court of law.

Following the Scottish Cup replay victory in January when the Rangers 1872 version did their best to live up to their ‘huns’ epithet, Lennon was handed another touchline ban. A verbal spat with McCoist saw him given a 4 match sentence (the SFA wanted to make it more but didn’t even understand their own rules) while at the appeal hearing the three Rangers players who had been red carded were exonerated from further punishment and McCoist won his appeal. The SFA had scored an equaliser and were running behind the goal lifting their jersey to reveal their ‘Dougie and Hugh – always in our hearts’ t-shirt.

Celtic’s lawyer, the late Paul McBride, said on the radio, “The SFA are tonight officially the laughing stock of world football, and they have been shown now 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 – received no punishment at all. We know that Bougherra, who manhandled the referee not once but twice, doesn’t get a ban. We know that Diouf, who’s involved in an altercation in the tunnel with the 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.”

Come April, Lennon appeared to be intent on turning over a new leaf and a resolve that he should temper his remarks towards match officials but we were about to get another glimpse into why it was almost impossible to avoid complaining about refs every other week.

By then the title race was close and every point precious. On April 12th Celtic had to travel to Perth to play St. Johnstone in a fixture that had been moved to 6pm on a Tuesday evening to suit the TV coverage, which prompted the balls kicked on to the pitch protest from the fans prior to kick-off.

While Lennon might have wanted some kind of rapprochement with officialdom, the SFA ensured that their position remained as staunch as ever with their appointment of Iain Brines to take charge of this one.

It’s too simplistic to dismiss Brines as one of a long line of Celtic bashing refs. His incompetence could be attested by managers and supporters of just about every club in Scotland but at least there was no whiff of freemasonry in his background, him being a police officer by occupation. No, wait…

The match itself was a turgid one played on a horrible pitch with Celtic looking to grind out a 1:0 win thanks to a goal right at the end of the first half by Beram Kayal, his first in the Hoops.

But with Brines in charge of any fixture there was always the possibility that things could take a turn for the bizarre quickly, and so it proved as the 70th minute approached. Giorgios Samaras challenged St. Johnstone defender Michael Duberry in the home side’s penalty box and the latter collapsed like a sack of spuds.

Everyone in the crowd was expecting Brines to blow for a foul but instead he let play continue, by which time Duberry had scooped the ball away from the byeline with his hand and pushed it further away with his other hand.

Expectation now was that it had to be a penalty. In the history of handball penalties this was the most indisputable handball penalty of all time. Brines looked on benignly and once again waved play on.

His juggling act over, Duberry recovered enough composure to hoof the ball up the park while Samaras stood with a look of utter bewilderment on his face.

Even the St. Johnstone manager at the time, Derek McInnes, never someone to wittingly back Celtic on any issue, expressed his incredulity at the non-award of a penalty in his post-match comments: “I thought it was a nudge by Samaras on Duberry. We all did and Dubes was expecting that. He then said he thought he was off the park. His momentum landed him on to the ball, but he quickly realised he was still on the park and the ref had not blown. He then moved it again. Michael said he didn’t know what to do!”

Neil Lennon was more succinct in his summary: “He only used the two hands, I think! “

It had been a moment of farce and should have brought the miserable refereeing career of Iain Brines to an ignominious conclusion the following morning by way of a P45 from the SFA. Instead, as with all of the hapless incompetents who appear in this occasional column, nothing more was said and he blundered on until finally disappearing in 2014.

One incident of note before we draw the curtain down on his career as a MIB. March 2012 saw the last ever Rangers v Celtic match at Ibrox. Had Celtic won we would have clinched the title there, but that was never going to be allowed to happen. Instead, ref Callum Murray put on a masterclass of Mibbery, sending off Cha Du Ri in the first half and Victor Wanyama later in the game.

Brines was 4th official that day and was involved in telling Neil Lennon that he had been sent to the stand at half-time (there was nowhere for Lennon to watch from the directors box where his safety could be guaranteed so alternative arrangements had to be made!) but it was an unusual incident, to say the least, given that the Celtic manager watched the whole of the first half from the dugout.

Above: Love rat rotter Brines about to have another falling out with Neil Lennon.

Rumours were circulating later in the week that the match reports of Calum Murray, Iain Brines and Wullie Conquer (linesman) on the incident didn’t match. Dougiegate 2 was avoided, however, and another honest mistake disappeared into the Memory Hole.

Never mind, despite his litany of bungling, at least Brines was an upstanding member of his community, what with him being a police officer and an SFA referee and everything.

Alas, his upstanding member proved to be his nemesis as he hit the headlines in a Daily Record exclusive penned by Elaine Robson in 2014.

“A LOVE-RAT football referee dumped his wife – by sending her a text message,” her article began, and it was downhill all the way after that. There was a picture as well, captioned: “ROTTER: Brines with wife Sharon,”

“SFA grade 1 official Iain Brines sent the mobile phone note to childhood sweetheart Sharon to tell her that their 16-year marriage was over.

Brines, who is also a serving police constable, had been having an affair with colleague Lesley MacLeod.”

Sharon was so distraught that she went to the Record with the story, and her comments about Brines were even more scathing than the punters who had the misfortune to watch him refereeing their team. Her sister Pamela didn’t hold back either: ‘After 16 years of marriage, he basically sent her a text saying he didn’t love her any more and had met someone else. ’I think when he got promoted to doing the SPL and UEFA games he got carried away and started thinking he was someone special.

‘He let the whole Footballers’ Wives lifestyle go to his head.’

Lack of space prevents any further digression into the content of the TV show ‘Footballers Wives’ but for the avoidance of doubt I can’t recall a show entitled “Referees Wives”. The very thought!

Pamela helpfully provided some more insight into Brines’s character with this revelation: ‘There was one time he yellow-carded Henrik Larsson and I think he got a kick out of it because of the controversy over the decision.’

And as if booking the beatific Swede wasn’t bad enough: ‘He is the blue-eyed boy as far as the police are concerned because of the refereeing thing and there have been pictures of him in the local paper with his uniform on holding the referee’s cards’ He used to be a beat police officer but was given a desk job so he could fit in his refereeing.

‘I think it’s disgraceful. We are the ones paying police wages and he’s carrying on with someone else at work.

‘Apparently he and Lesley go running together at lunchtimes.

I’ll leave the last word on Brines to his erstwhile mother-in-law: To be honest, when she told me what had happened, I wasn’t that surprised. Not because I think he’s done anything like this before but because he was always so interested in himself. Once he got promoted into the big league he started to act like he was important.

And a really shite referee into the bargain she didn’t add.


NTV 285

Includes paper copy and PDF.


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