Referees group hits back at criticism amid intense Celtic-Rangers title race - 'impacting personal lives and security of families'

The officials continue to take flak – with Celtic writing to the SFA and appealing Yang red card

The Scottish Senior Football Referees’ Association has hit out at the criticism of match officials following a controversial weekend in the cinch Premiership.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers was scathing of match referee Don Robertson and his VAR John Beaton after Yang Hjun-jun was sent off in the 2-0 defeat by Hearts, while a penalty was awarded for a handball incident against Tomoki Iwata. And Rangers were unhappy at the decision not to give Motherwell defender Dan Casey a red card as they lost 2-1 to Motherwell, while Kilmarnock are contesting an ordering off for their defender Lewis Mayo.

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Celtic confirmed they would be appealing against the Yang red card and added in a statement: “We have also written to the SFA to raise our serious concerns regarding the use of VAR and the decisions made within the match.” Kilmarnock have also appealed against the red card shown to Lewis Mayo for bringing down Dundee forward Scott Tiffoney and both hearings will take place on Tuesday by a fast-track tribunal convened by the SFA.

Referee Don Robertson is called to the VAR monitor before awarding a penalty to Hearts for a handball by Celtic's Tomoki Iwata.Referee Don Robertson is called to the VAR monitor before awarding a penalty to Hearts for a handball by Celtic's Tomoki Iwata.
Referee Don Robertson is called to the VAR monitor before awarding a penalty to Hearts for a handball by Celtic's Tomoki Iwata.

Rodgers claimed Beaton’s VAR intervention on the red card was “incredible” and claimed the penalty decision was “worse”. He added: “I try to respect decisions and give the benefit of the doubt, but when I see that level of incompetence, which is the only word I can use, then that makes me worry for the game.” The Celtic manager could now find himself facing SFA disciplinary action as rules forbid criticism of match officials in such a way as to “indicate bias or incompetence”.

The decisions dominated the news agenda on Monday. Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon and ex-Rangers boss Graeme Souness were both scathing in their criticism of Scotland’s match officials at a Viaplay media event. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with VAR, it’s the people that make the decisions,” said Lennon, while Souness said: “The referees are just not very good. VAR compounds the problem and shows them up.

This has led to the SSFRA committee declared themselves “extremely disappointed and concerned by another weekend of targeted and personalised criticism of its members”. A statement issued to the PA news agency read: “It has become too easy throughout the course of this season for managers and clubs to turn the focus – and resultant fan ire – on to match officials, often to deflect from team performance and results. We fully appreciate the importance of matches, especially now as we head into the defining period of the season for the destiny of the championship, European and top-six places, as well as relegation and play-off matters.

“Nonetheless, match officials should be able to carry out their duties without fear of them impacting their personal lives, their personal safety and the safety and security of their families. It is regrettable that criticism, which we generally accept is a part of the game for players and coaches as well as referees, has become much more frequent, disproportionate, and personalised towards our members. Everyone involved in Scottish football has a responsibility to behave professionally and respectfully and to understand the consequences of their actions.”