Scottish Referees to go on strike!

There is a huge chance that Scottish football may come to a halt next weekend as the referees union has reportedly agreed to strike action as a protest against the amount of public criticism Scottish referees have received this season. The referees are saying that the amount of criticism potentially puts their personal safety at risk. While nothing is official yet, the BBC is reporting that the union met this afternoon (Sunday 21st), and they voted to take action next weekend.
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Refereeing in Scotland has come under increased scrutiny and criticism this season, especially after a very controversial decision in a game between Dundee United and Celtic.
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In that game, referee Dougie McDonald gave a penalty to Celtic, and then reversed his decision, after realising he was wrong. McDonald then gave an inaccurate report of the reasoning behind his change of mind in his report to the referee’s observer straight after the game, saying that his assistant Steven Craven had called him over and persuaded him to change his mind. The truth was that McDonald merely sought confirmation from Craven that he was correct not to give a penalty and McDonald told a lie to prevent Craven from being marked down by assessors. Craven has since resigned as an official.
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McDonald was given a warning by the Scottish Football Association (SFA) this week but Celtic do not feel as though that is sufficient and have complained. Celtic chairman John Reid, the former UK Home Secretary, has called for McDonald to either resign or be fired, describing his position as “completely untenable”
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Celtic manager Neil Lennon was critical of the McDonald episode and has subsequently criticised the refereeing decisions in his side’s subsequent games against Hearts and Rangers. Celtic striker Gary Hooper said that referees “want” to give decisions against Celtic, as they are one of the worlds big clubs.
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Hamilton Academicals manager Billy Reid warned last month that he would understand if referees went on strike because of the amount of criticism they are receiving.
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It seems as though opinion is divided between clubs over whether or not this is a good thing for Scottish Football. Celtic are believed to welcome a strike because they hope it will lead to an investigation into what they deem a refereeing crisis. However, Motherwell manager Craig Brown has stated that he believes strike action will adversely affect clubs, as they will lose gate money and in Motherwell’s case TV money, as their game against Hearts nest Sunday is scheduled to be shown live.
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I can fully understand the position of the referees in this, as love them or hate them; you can’t have a game without them. However, there are problems and issues with the current system that cause frustration to players, managers and fans, and they should be addressed.
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Currently referees aren’t really accountable for poor decisions they make. They get paid well for refereeing (they nearly went on strike in Scotland two years ago over pay before it was increased). So why shouldn’t they get criticised? Or maybe more pertinently, has the criticism been fair or over the top?
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Also, a recent report said that over 80% of the top category referees in Scotland failed a recent exam on the laws of the game, with only five passing. To pass the exam the referee needed to score over 80%, but over half apparently scored below 70% with one referee only managing 50%. So is it really unfair to suggest that refereeing in Scotland is sub-standard, with many referees apparently having only a limited grasp of the rules?
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Should this strike go ahead it would disrupt the entire Scottish Premier League (SPL) and all three divisions of the Scottish Football League, as well as ALBA Challenge Cup semi-final and Scottish Cup replays. The SFA is responsible for proving the SPL with referees so a strike could leave the SFA open to a lawsuit from the SPL.
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It has been suggested that if Scottish referees go on strike that English, Welsh or Northern Irish referees could be drafted in, but I have no idea is that is allowed, or can feasibly be done.
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It may be interesting to see what the knock-on effect of this strike, should it happen, will be. I’m sure referee’s south of the border in England will be watching eagerly to see what happens. If the strike gives the referees that bit more respect they want, then strike action may well cross the minds of English referees too.
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What’s your opinion? Are the refs right to strike or not? Does the refereeing system in Scotland need an overhaul?