Category 1 referee resigns after sectarian and homophobic Facebook posts against Celtic boss Neil Lennon

A category 1 referee has had to step down. Picture: SNS
A category 1 referee has had to step down. Picture: SNS
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A referee who was primed to become a category 1 official this summer has stepped down following offensive social media posts against Celtic boss Neil Lennon.

Revealed by the Daily Mail's Stephen McGowan, Stephen Brown has had to resign due to a number of sectarian, discriminatory and homophobic messages on Facebook.

The matter came to a head with the referee eligible to take charge of Celtic and Rangers games this year.

The posts date back to 2010, shortly prior to Hugh Dallas' sacking from his post as the Head of Referee Development at the Scottish FA. The former Fifa-listed official was embroiled in an 'anti-catholic email scandal'.

The SFA were made aware of Brown's posts in 2014 and the issue went to the Judicial Panel with the independent panel issuing only a censure following the hearing.

Brown offered to resign but it was rejected by his local referee association.

The Daily Mail report that the SFA were surprised by decision but because it was an independent panel they could only follow the outcome.

Now, however, with organisation's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Plan it is not plausible or right for Brown to operate at the top level.

He told the Daily Mail: "I expressed deep regret and remorse at the time and the person I am now is unrecognisable to the person I was then. I am embarrassed by what I wrote but there were personal issues I was dealing with that, while they don't mitigate that behaviour, explain it.

"Refereeing has given me a second chance in life and I am grateful for that opportunity. I am devastated that my actions from the past will prevent me from fulfilling my potential as a match official but appreciate that perceptions linger, regardless of how much sorrow or regret I express."