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Red card! Scottish referees go on strike

Referee Dougie McDonald has been at the centre of controversy after admitting lying over an annulled penalty decision.
Referee Dougie McDonald has been at the centre of controversy after admitting lying over an annulled penalty decision.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Scotland's top referees vote to go on strike after their integrity is questioned by clubs
  • Officials have come in for sustained criticism from top flight clubs in recent weeks
  • SFA president George Peat called it a "sad day for Scottish football"
  • Celtic last week called for the resignation of referee Dougie McDonald

(CNN) -- For decades they have been showered with abuse from almost every corner of the football ground; from managers, players and fans alike.

But it seems that Scottish referees have blown the whistle and decided that enough is enough.

Next weekend officials from the Scottish Premier League (SPL) have voted to stage a walkout in protest at what they see as an unacceptable level of abuse they have received in recent months, abuse that they believe has threatened their safety.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) immediately vowed to avert the planned action with president George Peat calling the referees' decision "a sad day for Scottish football."

He told reporters: "We will do everything we possibly can to broker a deal before the weekend because it's obviously important that officials are on duty.

The climate of inference, innuendo and conspiracy theories must stop
-- George Peat, SFA president
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"We do not condone the strike but we must sympathize with the grievances of the referees. It's built up until they could take no more.

"The behavior of some people in recent weeks has tarnished the image of Scottish football. It has demeaned the game. The climate of inference, innuendo and conspiracy theories must stop."

There have also been reports of referees receiving death threats and being abused in the street by supporters.

Last week, the Scottish National Party's sport spokesman, MP Pete Wishart, suggested SPL referees should be forced to declare which team they support, an idea backed by Celtic chairman John Reid.

Celtic have been at the forefront of the debate, with Reid last week calling for the resignation of referee Dougie McDonald after a controversial incident during the club's 2-1 victory at Dundee United on October 17.

McDonald reversed his decision to award Celtic a penalty after claiming his assistant Steve Craven had alerted him to the mistake. But McDonald later admitted that it was he alone who overturned the decision and was warned by the SFA as a result.

Reid was quoted as saying: "If the SFA had any sense of their own integrity, they should look at it again. His position is completely untenable. The SFA's position on this issue is also untenable."

At his press conference Peat called Reid's remarks "unhelpful" and insinuated Celtic's behavior over the past few weeks had contributed to the referees' decision to strike.

Peat said he hoped the strike would be called off but admitted that the SFA would look at bringing officials in from other parts of the UK in a bid to ensure this weekend's matches go ahead.