London Hearts Supporters Club

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Referees could sue over criticism

Rodger Baillie.

VETERAN referee Willie Young has warned that Scotland’s officials could turn to the law if they don’t get protection from the criticism of managers and clubs.

Young, who retires this month after 15 years as a Class One referee, has challenged the SFA to defend their men in the middle. “Unless the authorities demonstrate a willingness to deal with people who make injudicious remarks, then referees will inevitably take matters into their own hands and follow up with legal action,” he said.

Hearts sparked off a storm when they demanded a probe into the controversial decision by assistant referee Andy Davis, now appointed to the Scottish Cup final, to award a late penalty which gave Rangers a 2-1 win at Tynecastle in March. “In recent years many instances have gone far beyond the bounds of fair comment,” added Young. “Everyone knows it’s a game of passion but if we make mistakes we own up to it by and large. We don’t do it publicly, but then neither do managers. If clubs are going to come and out and blast match officials personally there should be consequences; the game gains nothing from it because it’s no longer simply along the lines that the ref made an error. The SFA say we are eventually going to be allowed some form of reply but the evidence of that coming is pretty thin, and the more managers and others make outrageous comments the less it’s likely to happen.”

Three years ago, Young won an apology after threatening to sue Ivano Bonetti when the then Dundee manager claimed, after a game against Motherwell, that the referee was a cheat who held a party every time the Dens club lost. “I got an unreserved apology, and he wrote me a letter expressing his regrets,” said Young. “I didn’t want money, only an admission from him he was wrong.”

Young also fears supporters could be killed if players don’t cut down on goal celebrations. In November 2002 he sent off Hearts midfielder Phil Stamp, after he scored the winning goal against Hibs at Easter Road and raced to the visiting support, causing the crowd to surge forward. “One day someone will get killed in those surges,” warned Young. “Inevitably there are kids and disabled folk at the front, and they can’t get out the way if fans push forward.

“The SFA, the police and the safety officers all agreed I was right to take action against Stamp, and to be fair he had no complaints. Now players see it on TV in England and abroad, because it’s not enforced there, and they copy it. Unfortunately, players don’t think about consequences but it’s a serious issue and refs don’t get sympathy. They’re wrongly looked on as killjoys.”

Taken from

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