Ex-Hearts chairman says bad refereeing decisions fuel fans' anger

FORMER Hearts chairman Leslie Deans today declared that poor refereeing decisions in favour of Old Firm clubs are fuelling fans' anger whenever their teams face Rangers or Celtic.

Although keen to condemn the fan who attacked Neil Lennon at Tynecastle on Wednesday night, Deans stated that an already simmering atmosphere was worsened by the first-half dismissal of the Hearts midfielder David Obua. That decision followed a questionable red card issued to Eggert Jonsson at Ibrox last Saturday, which has since been rescinded by the Scottish Football Association.

Deans has consulted with officials of other SPL clubs and believes there are similar feelings of injustice over refereeing decisions taken when clubs face one of the big two. That sense of frustration spilled over on Wednesday and Deans insists action must be taken.

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"The decisions that go in favour of the Old Firm are a problem," he explained. "It has come to a head in the last week with red cards for Eggert Jonsson at Ibrox on Saturday and David Obua on Wednesday night. Does anybody seriously think that if the perpetrator in these incidents had been wearing a blue shirt or a green and white one that they would still have been sent off? I suspect the answer is 'no'.

"I'm sorry if this sounds like I'm having a go at Scottish referees but this has reached breaking point. The decisions which go against the so-called smaller teams are becoming ridiculous. Wednesday night was an example of that.

"The fans were inflamed. We saw the incident where that idiot ran on to have a go at the Celtic management. No matter how much decisions are disliked, there is absolutely no excuse for a physical attack on anyone. I'm sure the courts will deal with that misguided individual.

"However, the continuing questionable decisions are going against Hearts and the so-called smaller teams. This is an issue I've discussed with directors and managers of other clubs, it is not only Hearts. I've seen it happen for 50 years. "The red cards for Jonsson and Obua were frankly laughable. To indicate a punch was thrown by Obua, the officials really need to look at themselves. The referee wasn't even going to award a foul for that incident with Charlie Mulgrew and then he issues a red card after consulting his assistant. The incidents which took place afterwards were, I think, related to the Obua red card.

"Again I reiterate nobody is suggesting fans take the law into their own hands. It was one of the most unpleasant nights, but it leaves this unanswered question that in two consecutive matches Hearts are down to ten men against the Old Firm. Not for the first time, the decisions are highly questionable and you think how many more times will this happen before things change?"

Hearts have banned Lennon's assailant from Tynecastle for life after he was charged with a breach of the peace and assault against the Celtic manager aggravated by religious prejudice.

A Hearts spokesperson said: "While not wanting to prejudge the outcome of the court case, all true Hearts fans will have been disgusted by what they witnessed. There is no justification for such actions, which have no place in the game of football, and we have taken the severest action open to set the strongest possible deterrent. As such, the supporter involved has been handed a life ban from Tynecastle Stadium."