Neil Lennon says the people who made threats against referee John Beaton following his failure to take action against Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos during the latest Old Firm derby are “dragging the name of Scottish football into the gutter”. The Hibs head coach also said the supporters should be “brought to justice and humiliated in public”.
Beaton called in the police last week after being targeted online, while Celtic issued a strongly-worded statement after it was decided Morelos would face no retrospective action despite the Colombian striker appearing to kick out at Celtic captain Scott Brown before lashing out at Ryan Christie and standing on Anthony Ralston’s back.
The whistler received a police escort as he arrived at Somerset Park for Ayr United’s Championship match with Falkirk at the weekend. The referees’ union called for action, saying the abuse of match officials had reached “crisis point”.
Lennon himself has, of course, been subject to abuse and threats, the latest being graffiti daubed on a wall near Tynecastle declaring “Hang Neil Lennon” prior to the derby with Hearts in October in which he was hit by a coin.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful, said Lennon. “I think it’s dragging the name of Scottish football into the gutter.
“I’ve been involved in incidents like this myself – as a lot of people have been – and it just seems to be one thing after another now. It’s shameful and my sympathies go to John and his family.
“The guy is just trying to do his job as honestly as he can so we have to address this issue.
“I’ve been saying for a long time now, the authorities aren’t strong enough on the perpetrators of these acts.
“The authorities – whether in football or in government – need to crack down on this. It’s happening far too often and it’s very, very distressing, not only for the individual but his loved ones and friends.
“It’s totally out of order. It’s a game of football but these people need to be brought to justice and humiliated in public.
“Hopefully that will be a deterrent for anyone else thinking about doing it. Referees get criticised and that’s fine because they will make mistakes as we all do – but don’t go beyond that. It’s a game at the end of the day.
“It’s a sport that we all love and these people are darkening the image of the game. Scottish football in essence is a great public spectacle and these people are spoiling it. And it’s not a minority either – my worry is that it’s happening far too often now.”