Neil Lennon: Refs should explain decisions

Neil Lennon: Referees reluctant. Picture: SNS
Neil Lennon: Referees reluctant. Picture: SNS
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THE fallout from Nadir Ciftci’s controversial ban for manhandling a linesman continued last night as Celtic manager Neil Lennon called on Scotland’s referees to explain their decisions if they want to criticise the ‘lenient’ punishment handed out to the Dundee United striker.

Match officials have been angered by Ciftci’s two-match ban, one of which is suspended, for putting his hand on assistant referee Gavin Harris’ throat during October’s clash with Inverness, publicly expressing their “deep dissatisfaction at the leniency” of the Scottish Football Association sanction.

After receiving the SFA’s explanation for their decision yesterday, the Scottish Senior Football Referees Association (SSFRA) stood by its criticism, although the union insisted it has not discussed plans to carry out strike action following the controversy.

Lennon, however, claimed that referees “can’t have it both ways” when it comes to having their say in public. “If they want to explain their side of it in this case then they should have to explain a lot of things after games,” said the Celtic manager.

“We want to protect referees as well because they are human beings and they are liable to make mistakes as we all are. This is one of the reasons why they are reluctant to come out and explain things after games because they leave themselves open to widespread criticism. But they can’t have it both ways.”

The SFA criticised the referees’ union for going public with its concerns before viewing the disciplinary panel’s judgment and the row has opened up fresh divisions with the match officials and the governing body following the 2010 strike action which came amid claims referees’ safety was being put at risk.

Lennon was at the heart of that controversy after asking for an explanation over Dougie McDonald’s decision to rescind a penalty he awarded to Celtic during a game against United at Tannadice. “We asked for clarification three years ago and we are still in the same boat three years later,” Lennon said.

However, Lennon believes referees are well respected by managers and protected by the SFA, and matters have improved since that withdrawal of labour in November 2010. “I don’t think it’s as severe, the pressure and exposure, they were under two or three years ago,” Lennon said. “I don’t think there has been too much controversy over the last two or three years. There have been a few spats but you get that in every country.”

Lennon did not want to give his opinion on the punishment handed out to Turkish striker Ciftci given he was not aware of the details of the case.

He said: “While I understand some people thinking the ban is too lenient, you have got to take each individual case on its own merit. We talked to the compliance officer last year about the excessive bans that befall managers. Some managers were getting eight-game bans and can’t do their job properly. We felt that was way over the top. Whether they have taken that into consideration, I don’t know.” The SSFRA issued another statement yesterday in which it confirmed it has no intention to seek industrial action after receiving the Judicial Panel’s explanation from the SFA.

It said: “Having considered the explanation the SSFRA stands by its original statement. We now look forward to working positively with the Scottish FA to identify a solution which is satisfactory to all parties and ensures that referees are protected throughout the game, particularly at grassroots level.”

The statement added: “The SSFRA wishes to make it clear that it has not considered any form of industrial action.”

Last night United coach Darren Jackson was censured by the SFA for leaving the technical area after the Ciftci incident.