Extraordinary news from north of the border in Scotland that the senior referees there have voted to go on strike next weekend due to the extreme criticism and death threats from fans.
The 31 members of the Scottish Senior Referees Association, supported by 11 Level Two officials will refuse their assignments at Clydesdale Bank Premier League matches and lower league matches. It also includes the ALBA Cup Final between Ross County and Queen of the South plus 3 Scottish Cup 3rd round replays.
This morning the very articulate and sensible CRAIG BROWN C.B.E. was on the morning news saying that it could all be worked out if the sensible people involved sat down at the same round table. Craig is the manager of Motherwell F.C. and former manager of Scotland, with an outstanding record with the national team. He was the last Scotland manager to win at Wembley in the second leg of a qualifying game.
He claims that The Steelmen, his current club team, are 'The fairest in the land' having won the Scottish Fair Play award. In two seasons out of retirement he has taken 'Well from a disaster to twice qualifying for Europe. He has been to 48 of the 53 countries in Europe and says that Scottish referees, despite being part-time, are as good as anywhere.
That is true. I have seen many perform, such as Bob Valentine, Hugh Dallas, Bob Davidson,Brian McGinlay,Tom 'Tiny' Wharton and they are fit, skilled in the laws of the game and fair. Craig claims that he always called referee boss Hugh Dallas on a Monday morning to discuss any problems and got a fair hearing.
The problem lies with the fact that that football is the only major sport and people, particularly with the Old Firm, Rangers and Celtic are far too passionate and intolerent. You may have seen the recent banners from quite a number of Celtic fans on Armistice Day, when all the clubs, both north and south of the border wore printed red poppys on their jerseys, to support all those who had died fighting for freedom over the years.
There are religious bigots at both of those clubs who are a disgrace to humanity, and one of the many reasons why the English Premier and Football Leagues will NEVER allow them to join. Celtic's Parkhead Chairman John Reid, who should know better, has asked for referee resignations. Reid, a big mouth from Whitehall,and former Home Secretary and now Baron Reid of Cardowan no less, should be suspended for his comments. He is too rich to suffer from a fine, but public humiliation and a ban of attending matches for six months would go a long way
Trouble brewed at a Celtic v Dundee United match when the referee, Dougie McDonald, after consulting one of his assistants, reversed his decision to give a penalty. Hoops coach Noel Lennon, who has suffered from religious intolerence himself, quit after 40 international 'caps, for Northern Ireland due to death threats, went beserk on the touchline at Tannadice, October 17th, inflaming the fans. The linesman has quit, with death threats on his phone and through his letter box and this and other incidents has let to to the present problem.
Referee chief Stuart Douglas and Scottish FA chief executive Stuart Regan, fresh from a similar post at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, plus SFA President George Peat, must sit down and solve the problem. 'The culture of inference, innuendo and conspiracy theories must stop', insists Peat.
A couple of years ago current Scottish manager Craig Levein, then at Dundee United, was fined £5,000 for his abuse of referee Mike McCurry. The current season was in danger of not starting on time when the referees asked for a pay raise. They now get £600.00 a match, £400 for assistants and £200 for the fourth official. They cited higher pay in the leagues in Norway, Greece, and Holland.
South of the border, Barclays EPL full time officials receive £33,000 a year plus a £300 match fee, but apart from The Old Firm, attendances in Scotland are low and referees are well paid, and need to be protected.