YOU'VE BEEN FRAMED; Celts use video of Old Firm shame game to nail ref.
He's completely absorbed, watching every move with the cold, clinical interest of a scientist. The frantic football flickering on the screen is just a side-show for the top psychologist. He's studying player reactions, body language, behavioural patterns.
And he's taking note of every gesture, every little movement the referee makes. Hugh Dallas is under the microscope and Lewis doesn't like what he sees.
The mind doctor reaches for the remote control. Pause. Rewind. The damning moment is played back as Dallas gives Giovanni van Bronckhorst a friendly pat on the backside.
Lewis scribbles on a notebook and when his report lands on Allan MacDonald's desk, the Hoops chief executive feels vindicated. But has an innocent gesture been misinterpreted, leading to Dallas being found guilty of favouritism?
MacDonald says no.
Angry fans have often said a referee needed his head examined. MacDonald arranged just such a thing but without telling the patient who was being psychoanalysed.
The psychologist's verdict was Dallas sent out the wrong signals to supporters who were already walking an emotional tightrope in the volatile atmosphere which typifies the Glasgow derby.
And without a safety net to protect those who got so carried away at Celtic Park on May 2 one of them swallow-dived from the rear of the Jock Stein Stand into the front section, mercifully without loss of life or permanent disablement.
"The psychologist's diagnosis was you want players to be hyped up for a game as big as the Old Firm derby because the adrenalin rush can lift their performance level," says MacDonald.
"But you don't want them to get so carried away they lose the place.
"The psychologist's remit was to find out who went over the top.
"All that we as a club were trying to do was ask the game's ruling bodies to show the findings to the referee concerned and ask him to consider the results to see if there was anything that might have been helpful to him.
"After all, the psychologist's credentials are well established through his close association with the English FA.
"His report doesn't say Hugh Dallas is biased in favour of Rangers over Celtic, only that he can improve on his performance. What's wrong with saying that?
"The study of his body language came to the conclusion he was capable of provoking the kind of crowd reaction we don't want to see at Celtic Park when a tense game is played.
"Was it purely co-incidental that soon after he was seen patting van Bronckhorst a coin came on to the park and struck the referee?
"Not according to the careful scrutiny of the game carried out by a man trained to understand crowd reactions and the reasons for them.
"I ordered a thorough invest- igation of our security arrangements that day to see if there was anything more we could have done to cut down on the violent incidents.
"We didn't want to overlook any possible cause of crowd trouble but the inescapable conclusion is tension in the stands was created by certain gestures made by the referee."
Sometimes the evidence of your own eyes has to be taken into account. Dallas is now the referee Celtic fans love to hate most, yet the way in which the match official can be treated occasionally borders on the hysterical.
This is the man whose first serious decision in his Old Firm debut at Ibrox in 1995 was to deny Rangers a perfectly good goal because of an offside verdict which TV's replay showed to be incorrect.
And then he awarded Celtic a penalty in a game that ended 3-3.
As recently as last month Dallas' critics were claiming Celtic had never won an Old Firm derby when it was refereed by Dallas.
That ignores the 2-0 win for Wim Jansen's side over Rangers in January 1997 when Celtic were on their way to the championship.
Dallas has taken charge of four Celtic games this season and they've yet to lose any, including the controversial 2- 1 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park in October.
Satellite television used every scrap of the space age technology at its disposal but still could not prove the ball from Morten Wieghorst's shot crossed the line.
But Dallas allowed the goal to stand and Celtic were awarded three precious points in injury time which kept their title hopes alive.
Yet none of this evidence has been found an acceptable defence of the referee's integrity.
Ian Wright was reported to the SFA for allegedly trying to attack Dallas in the tunnel at half- time in last month's League Cup quarter final tie against Dundee.
And Wright wasn't even playing on the night Stephane Mahe was shown yet another red card for an off-the-ball incident in the first half.
The question now is whether Celtic and a psychologist have made it even more difficult for Dallas to get an even break from players and supporters alike in any future Old Firm matches.
Never before has a psychologist been brought in to suggest there is a problem because a referee is too familiar with Rangers players.
MacDonald makes it clear he felt the choice of Dallas as the man in charge of last month's derby was an insensitive, provocative gesture on the part of the SFA and the SPL.
He said: "I have got to be concerned with the health and safety of everyone inside Celtic Park on match days.
"That's why we asked if Hugh Dallas could be replaced for the the Rangers game, not because we think he's a bad referee.
"I felt the appointment took no account of the past, the psych- ologist's findings or anything else.
"It was insensitive to the demands of the occasion.
"We have subsequently received an apology from the SPL over the way in which the referee's name was leaked to the press before the home team was informed.
"And they have promised us that in future sensitive games will be carefully considered and both teams consulted before the referees' ballot is drawn up and released for public consumption."
But how will the stigma of being over-friendly with one Old Firm team be removed from Hugh Dallas' record?
An idea has now been planted in the minds of the Celtic support which confirms their worst suspicions about him.
Dallas will have to bear that cross for the rest of his career, while seeking assurances from soccer chiefs that this report won't make him the sick man of Scottish football.
A leper in the eyes of one group of supporters.
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|Author:||Keevins, Chief Sports Writer Hugh|
|Publication:||Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Jan 30, 2000|
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