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Page last updated at 18:09 GMT, Sunday, 21 November 2010

Scottish referees vote for strike action

Celtic manager Neil Lennon (right) confronts match officials

Celtic v refs controversy

BBC Scotland exclusive

Fixtures in Scotland face possible postponement next weekend after Category One referees voted to strike.

Scottish match officials are upset with the avalanche of flak that has come their way this season.

BBC Scotland has learned that officials are concerned that their integrity is constantly being questioned by some clubs and individuals.

And there are increasing fears among referees over personal safety as a result of public criticism.

The decision to take strike action was reached at a referees' union meeting held on Sunday afternoon, with unanimous backing.


There are six Scottish Premier League games scheduled for next weekend. There is also a full card in the Scottish Football League.

The ALBA Challenge Cup final between Queen of the South and Ross County at McDiarmid Park is under threat, as are any Scottish Cup replays.

"Referees are at the end of their tether, and it's not just how it's impacting on them but it's the impact it's all having on their families and business lives," former referee Kenny Clark told BBC Scotland.

"Businesses in which referees are employed are being targeted by fans sending hate emails to employers saying things like, 'why are you employing this guy?'"

Celtic have voiced concerns about refereeing standards this season and last and BBC Scotland has also learned that the Glasgow club would welcome the strike.

It is understood Celtic hope that it could lead to a wider independent investigation and want Uefa to intervene in what they think is a refereeing crisis.

Paatelainen has sympathy for refs

On Thursday, Celtic chairman John Reid called for the resignation of referee Dougie McDonald, saying "his position is completely untenable" after he was warned by the Scottish Football Association for lying about his reasons for overturning a penalty award.

In the wake of McDonald's admission of deception, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan has promised an overhaul of how referees are disciplined.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was critical of the McDonald episode and has since questioned refereeing decisions after defeats to Rangers and Hearts.

And Celtic striker Gary Hooper caused a storm when he said the thought referees "want" to give decisions against his team because they are one of the world's big clubs.

Politicians have also been getting in on the act, with SNP sport spokesman Pete Wishart calling for referees to be forced to declare which team they support.

Clark is in no doubt that it is the pressure from Celtic that has led to the strike action.

"John Reid put the tin lid on it in terms of the meeting today," he added. "His comments have toppled the table over.

"I think what the referees are trying to do is put down a marker and saying to clubs, 'we can't continue like this or we'll end up with no referees!'

"It's only a matter of time before a referee or a member of his family is physically attacked because of how it's being whipped up. Clubs are effectively encouraging it up by what they're doing."

Motherwell are at home to Hearts on Sunday in a match that is scheduled for live television coverage and manager Craig Brown believes strike action would unfairly harm his club.

"It's a radical course of action, a step too far," he told BBC Radio Scotland.

"One of the rules of refereeing is that the non-offending team should not be penalised. I have never publicly criticised referees.

"We would lose gate money and television money if the game is called off and that revenue is vital to a club of our size."

Kilmarnock boss Mixu Paatelainen was more sympathetic, saying: "If it happens, it's disappointing. But there has been too much talk of referees and I don't think that's healthy.

"Referees feel the strain and they might be a little bit more nervous before matches than usual and that maybe affects their ability.

"Hopefully, there is a solution before the weekend but I understand how they are feeling."

Scottish Premier League referees planned to strike over pay in 2008 but the threat was lifted when a review was set up to study their wage demands.

The SFA are not commenting on the matter, with a spokesman saying they have not had any official notification of the planned strike.

A source at the SPL told BBC Scotland: "This is a matter for the SFA and the referees. The SFA have a contract to provide us with officials and we expect them to honour that."

In December 2008, SPL managers jointly agreed to refrain from speaking about refereeing decisions after matches. However, the experiment was short-lived.

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see also
Lennon ready to fight suspension
19 Nov 10 |  Celtic
Celtic call for referee to resign
18 Nov 10 |  Celtic
MP makes ref club allegiance plea
16 Nov 10 |  Scotland
SFA probes Dallas email reports
10 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
SFA promises ref system overhaul
04 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Butcher asks bosses to help refs
04 Nov 10 |  Inverness CT
McDonald's lie 'will hinder refs'
03 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Refs are against Celtic - Hooper
03 Nov 10 |  Celtic
Ref McDonald explains 'lie' role
01 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier
Reid calls for calm in ref crisis
29 Oct 10 |  Hamilton
SPL bosses agree silence on refs
19 Dec 08 |  Scottish Premier

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