Scottish ref resigns over ‘sectarian’ jibes about Neil Lennon
A Scottish football referee has insisted he is a changed man after having to step down from his position over Facebook messages about Celtic and their Lurgan-born manager Neil Lennon.
Stephen Brown posted a series of messages in 2010, which have since been deleted.
They have been seen by the Daily Mail, which called them "sectarian, discriminatory and homophobic".
The Mail reported that the matter was referred to the Scottish FA's Judicial Panel which issued a censure, although Brown's offer to resign was turned down by the local referee association.
The 35-year-old eventually became eligible to take charge of category one games, which would involve Old Firm games.
But the SFA's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Plan made his position untenable. Chief executive Ian Maxwell said the messages would make it impossible for the referee to handle games involving Celtic or Rangers or any game which would have implications for the Glasgow sides.
Mr Brown told the Mail he took full responsibility for the posts, which he said were made during a period of "great personal difficulty".
"I expressed deep regret and remorse at the time and the person I am now is unrecognisable to the person I was then. I am embarrassed by what I wrote."
He added: "I am devastated that my actions from the past will prevent me from fulfilling my potential as a match official but appreciate that perceptions linger, regardless of how much sorrow or regret I express."
Neil Lennon, in his second spell at Parkhead, was appointed Celtic boss full-time after guiding the team to its third successive Scottish Cup success and an unprecedented treble, treble following the sudden departure of Brendan Rodgers in February.
The former Northern Ireland captain spent four years at Parkhead, winning three league titles and two Scottish cups between 2010 and 2014 before moving to Bolton and then Hibernian in 2016.