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Paul Third: Who can blame our officials if they decide to strike again?

Referees are finding their integrity being questioned as Rangers make plea for Willie Collum not to be involved in their future matches

Scottish referee Willie Collum. Image: SNS
Scottish referee Willie Collum. Image: SNS

The last week reinforces that when it comes to Scottish football and the haranguing of referees it seems we have learned nothing.

I thought Scottish football had reached its nadir in 2010 when our officials went on strike.

Remember those days?

It was a time when assistant referee Steven Craven resigned over a penalty award being overturned in a game between Celtic and Dundee United at Tannadice.

The SFA then found itself fielding written letters from Celtic about the performance of Willie Collum – more on him later – in his first Old Firm game.

The Hoops wanted clarification over “strange decisions going against us” while former Celtic striker John Hartson claimed there was a ‘”conspiracy against my old club.”

Hearts added to the pile-on, issuing a statement claiming the officiating could “easily be a cover for bias and match fixing.”

The SFA was in full defence mode with chief executive Stewart Regan pleading for the criticism and scrutiny to be brought to an end.

To cap it all we then had politicians getting involved with MSP Pete Wishart calling for officials to disclose which team they support to avoid bias.

If you are going to go down the rabbit hole you might as well go all the way to the bottom, I suppose.

Criticism led to referees going on strike

Israeli referee Eli Hacmon took charge of Aberdeen’s game at Kilmarnock in 2010. Image: SNS

Eventually, our officials’ patience snapped and they announced industrial action.

The move meant nine games were postponed with foreign officials enlisted to take charge of the 11 games which did go ahead.

Aberdeen’s game against Kilmarnock was officiated by Eli Hacmon of Israel and was praised for his performance.

Eventually, common sense prevailed and the officials returned to action. Further strike action was considered in 2011 and 2014 but since then it has been relatively peaceful among the parties.

Recent developments are worrying for the game

Criticism still comes of course but it has not been anywhere near the levels we saw in the space of a few weeks 14 years ago.

That has all changed in the last week, however.

Once again we’ve got insinuations being made, referees up in arms and even parliamentary motions being made.

All the markers which led to the chaos in 2010 are there.

For those not with an affinity for either half of the Glasgow divide it all seems to be a case of much ado about nothing.

Rangers are unhappy they were denied a penalty in their 2-1 defeat by Celtic at Celtic Park on December 30.

Hoops defender Alistair Johnston handled the ball inside the box as he looked to fend off Rangers striker Abdallah Sima.

Referee Nick Walsh gave a goal kick while Collum, who was VAR duty, decided Walsh did not need to review the incident.

Had a handball offence been deemed worthy of a review the fact Sima was offside in the build-up would have rendered the outcome moot regardless.

But Rangers are not having it. They demanded a meeting with the SFA and wanted the audio of the conversation between the officials.

Representatives of Rangers and the SFA did meet to discuss the incident, leading to both giving alternative views of what was discussed.

To cap it all the Light Blues have requested Collum not be involved in their games in the future.

Thankfully, it was swiftly rebuked by the Hampden hierarchy.

For the sake of the game, and avoiding a repeat of the events of 2010, that plea must always fall on deaf ears.

Referees make mistakes – and clubs need to accept that

Rangers have no authority and no right to dictate appointments – no club has.

What they have shown is an incredible rush to curry favour with their fanbase by playing the agenda card.

By all means query a decision. You don’t even have to be happy with the answer you get but you must accept it.

Why? Because even with all this technology human error still happens.

We’re getting into murky territory by suggesting sinister forces are at play when it comes to how a human being interprets what they are watching whether it is in real time or a replay.

Our officials are not perfect but they deserve better than this.