Referee Willie Collum: Ridiculous abuse almost forced me out

Ref reveals he was targeted while with wife and considered quitting ‘many times’

Willie Collum.
Willie Collum.

Willie Collum has condemned the “ridiculous abuse” of referees in Scottish football and revealed he has considered quitting on several occasions.

The 41-year-old has been Scotland’s highest-profile match official for the past decade, taking charge of five major cup finals, and has been a member of Uefa’s elite list of referees since 2012. But Collum is hugely concerned by the threats and level of personal verbal attacks he and his colleagues are subjected to from football supporters, not only inside stadiums but also when they are spending time with their families.

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In a frank discussion with ex-Scotland internationals Kris Boyd and Robert Snodgrass in the latest edition of the Lockdown Tactics podcast, Collum relates an example of one such disturbing incident he experienced in December 2018.

“I had a day off and went into Glasgow with my wife for some Christmas shopping for the kids,” said Collum.

“Within 10 metres of getting out of the car and walking towards a shopping centre, three or four guys had given me the most ridiculous abuse. It frightened my wife and she was really upset. That trip ended in five minutes. We were back in the car and up the road.

“There needs to be an acceptance that we are ordinary people, with families. It worries me when I see referees receiving threats.

“Some of the abuse we are subjected to in stadiums isn’t right. When it becomes personal, it’s a worry.

“We need to respect people in the public spotlight. We have families and also need to hold down a full-time job (away from football).

“I’ve thought about quitting lots of times. My wife has said to me many times that maybe it’s time to give it up.”

Collum says the closest he came to giving up refereeing was in the aftermath of criticism he received for his performance in a league match between Falkirk and Rangers in 2015, shortly after he had been named as a referee for the Euro 2016 finals in France.

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It was the start of what he freely admits was a run of games when he did not perform well, prompting the Scottish FA to withdraw him from games for a time.

“It was a very difficult period,” added Collum.

“That whole period affected my well-being and the well-being of my family. That was a time I was very close to giving up and my wife wanted me to finish.”

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