Supporters want to give referees an early bath

HEARTS and Hibs fans are united in their condemnation of the quality of refereeing in the SPL.

Supporters of both Capital clubs have expressed their concern at what they see as the falling standard of top flight officials in this country in our exclusive online poll.

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith revealed recently that he had received letters from fans of every top flight club complaining of bias against their teams and the findings of an Evening News survey confirm that football followers in Edinburgh have serious misgivings about the men who officiate the game.

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Several of the top-ten whistlers received no votes rating them as "excellent" while many had the overwhelming majority of fans labelling them "poor". And the men who incurred the wrath of both sets of fans in equal measure were Alan Freeland and Iain Brines.

A massive 74.4 per cent of Jambos considered Mr Freeland's performances to be of a poor standard while the displeasure at his refereeing was just as overwhelming on the other side of the city where 68.3 per cent of people rated him sub-standard. Not a single Hearts fan who cast a vote felt he was an "excellent" official, while only 3.4 per cent of Hibees felt he was at the top of his game.

Mr Freeland probably didn't expect to fare too well with those of a maroon persuasion in Edinburgh having only refereed one Hearts game this term – a 4-1 away defeat at Dundee United – when he awarded the home side two penalties and sent-off Marius Zaliukas, Lee Wallace and Michael Stewart.

Ironically, however, during the only Hibs match he has taken charge of this season the Leith outfit ended up defeating Celtic 3-2.

"There are no good referees now since Hugh Dallas retired," moaned one supporter who voted in the poll.

And the fan continued: "Alan Freeland shouldn't be allowed to referee any more games, even Sunday league games!"

Running Freeland a close second in the unpopularity stakes was Iain Brines.

Fifty-six per cent of Hibs fans rated the policeman's performances as poor, while 65.4 per cent of the Tynecastle faithful felt that Brines was doing a bad job as a referee.

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An angry fan said: "A good referee is one you don't notice in a game. Unfortunately too many of our refs think they are the centre of attention. Ian Brines' confrontational manner may be okay in his day job as a policeman, handling a punch-up on a Saturday night, but it doesn't work in football."

Another supporter chipped in: "In my opinion Stuart Dougal is clearly the best ref in Scotland but that's hardly a glowing reference! If I could, I would have awarded Iain Brines, Charlie Richmond, Alan Freeland, Craig Thomson and Dougie McDonald minus scores!"

The most unpopular official with Hibs fans alone was Charlie Richmond with 75.9 per cent voting him as a poor referee compared to only 40.4 per cent of Hearts fans, while 82.1 per cent of Jambos had Dougie McDonald down as their least favourite whistler compared to just 17.2 per cent of Hibees.

The official who scored top marks with Hibs fans was Dougie McDonald with 22 per cent rating him as an "excellent" referee.

Top man for the Jambos was Stuart Dougal despite only 11.5 per cent believing he was at the top of his game.

Your Say

FANS who took part in the online survey could also post their comments anonymously. They had plenty of opinions and ideas for how to improve the standard of refereeing

• "Week after week I come away wondering how the refs get away with it. There needs to be some sort of independent authority to check their performances are of a professional standard and not costing teams vital points."

• "Every week I watch English Premier League, La Liga, Champions League etc, then go to SPL games and see the refs interpreting the game totally differently. They ignore the new directives on over-aggressive tackling and still seem to ref games they same way they did 20 years ago."

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• "Generally speaking I think the referees are simply not up to the job. Most of the time also they get absolutely no support from linesmen. On occasions they do, they tend to overrule them! We need to have all the things they have in rugby, for example the video ref and penalising teams ten yards for dissent. There is too much at stake now. Look at the way rugby referees work where respect is greater and back chat results in a penalty against the offender."

• "Lack of consistency in decisions – sometime within minutes of each other. Refs come across on the field of play as being arrogant. Lack of explanation for decisions. Lack of accountability where refs make wrong decisions but are still back the following week."

• "It would help if the SFA implemented meaningful quality control re performance. The English system, where there are penalties for bad performance, is something they should copy."

• "I feel that refs make their decisions honestly and without the benefit of numerous cameras to help, any mistakes are honest and sometimes down to angles or players running across their line of sight."

• "I don't believe referees are biased towards any one particular team. However I do feel one or two are incompetent."

• "Refereeing in Scotland is very poor, perhaps it's is time for full-time refs."

• "The current standard of refereeing in both Scotland and England is absolutely appalling. Oh for a few Tom Whartons, Bobby Davidsons, Bill Mullens and George Smiths in the modern game. They always applied the unwritten law, 'use your common sense'!"

• "Our refs are more interested in being in the limelight, whereas good refs are conspicuous by their apparent invisibility. I know it's a hard job but a little less ego-tripping wouldn't be a bad thing. A more involved approach by the fourth official should be encouraged as their current contribution is negligible. Firmer and more critical appraisals by whoever is up in the stand should be compiled and published."