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Scottish referees striking back

By Stuart McKinley

Scottish referees last night took a stern stance against rising levels of criticism by voting to go on strike this weekend.

And with no officials available to take control of matches, that means no football in Scotland this coming Saturday or Sunday.

The move, which comes after a number of high profile incidents of late which have involved referees, has been slammed by clubs.

Some of those clubs are set to lose out on television cash as well as gate receipts at a time when they need every penny.

The recent controversies began five weeks ago when referee Dougie McDonald reversed a decision to award a penalty to Celtic in a game against Dundee United.

After his admission that he had misled Parkhead manager Neil Lennon, McDonald was warned by the SFA referee's committee over his failure to give an accurate report of the circumstances surrounding his decision.

Growing concerns over the rising level of criticism levelled at referees in the Scottish game, as well as attacks on their integrity and personal values — plus fears over personal safety — led to a vote being taken at a referee’s union meeting yesterday.

Former Scottish Premier League referee Stuart Dougal claimed that match officials had overwhelmingly supported the idea to withdraw their labour.

“My understanding is it was unanimous and it probably surprised a number of people that there was a groundswell of opinion so strongly agreeing with taking the action that has been suggested,” said Dougal.

“I don't think it has been any one thing, there has been a build-up. It's not against any criticism over the peaceful fans generally, nor managers and players coming out after a match and putting a point across.

“What's got to referees is the level of abuse, the intensity of the criticism and of the scrutiny.

“A number of referees have aired concern about safety and that is something they have decided they cannot take any longer.

“My understanding is there are referees who believe, not only their own personal safety, but that of their family (is at risk) as well: when it gets to that level it is unacceptable.”

Lennon has been particularly vociferous in his criticism of officials and faces possible SFA action over comments made after defeats by Rangers and Hearts.

Willie Collum received threatening phone calls after awarding Rangers a dubious penalty during their 3-1 victory at Celtic Park.

Former Northern Ireland midfielder Lennon said: “I have to get to know what I can of can’t say to officials.

“I don’t want to be sitting in the stand, so I have to avoid these situations in the future, if and when they come up.”

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