Sunday, January 16, 2022

Why the Scottish referees have made me cross.

The Scottish referees have been given a temporary 39% pay rise whilst discussions continue about their actual settlement. This compromise means that the football will not be disrupted.

I was quite shocked by the news that the start of the Scottish Premier League (SPL) season this weekend could have been delayed because of a strike threat from the country’s Referees’ Association. When I thought about what was being said and what the dispute is about, it made me quite cross.

Referees are right up there with traffic wardens, estate agents and tax collectors in terms of their general popularity with the general public. If they were to strike and stop people from seeing the football they have been waiting for over the past couple of months then they would reach new levels of unpopularity.

The SPL met the Referees Association at Hampden Park yesterday in an attempt to resolve a pay row. The referees were demanding a 39% pay rise. It is believed the referees have been promised £600 a match, which would be a £25 increase, but they are holding out for £800.

Referees in Scotland do not get an annual retainer unlike their English Premier League counterparts who receive £33,000 plus £300 per match in fees.

Former Scottish referee Kenny Clark believes the pressures that come with job is the primary reason why officials should get a better deal.

“There are not any referees who will suggest they should get paid anything like what the players get,” he told the BBC.

“This is about giving some acknowledgment to the pressures they are under, and their families are under when it comes to media scrutiny. We are being asked to be professional, even though were amateur, in the way we conduct ourselves and we just want an increase in fees. In Greece, Norway and Holland they’re getting paid more.”

In a nutshell, that statement sums up the problem I have with this issue. I don’t know whether £600 a game or £800 a game is the most appropriate wage for a Scottish referee and in many ways that is none of my business.

Where I fall out with the Referees Association is when they say that this issue isn’t about the money. That is not true. It is very much about the money.

If anyone can explain to me how getting an extra £200 per match will reduce the pressure they are under, reduce the pressure on their families due to media scrutiny, make the referees more professional and improve the way they conduct themselves, I would love to hear it.

All of those things would still be issues only the referees would be getting paid more. So there it is. It is about the money.

There are much wider arguments to be had about whether referees should be full-time professionals, the respect shown to the referees by players and managers and the general status of the referee within the game, but none of those issues will be remotely addressed by negotiating a bigger pay rise.

I have strong feelings about the abuse suffered by referees at the hands of players and managers and I would support any reasonable measures taken to address the issue. The Respect Agenda being run by the English Football Association is a good thing and should be encouraged.

I have strong feelings about managers and coaches questioning the integrity of referees and accusing them of cheating. It is a bad thing to do and must be stopped. Referees make bad mistakes but they are done honestly. If a manager truly suspects a referee of cheating then the whole foundation of the game is at risk. It is a huge accusation and should never be made in after match interviews.

I have strong feelings about media pressure on referees and their families. It is simply unfair and shouldn’t happen.

Anyone in their right mind would totally and utterly condemn the mindless threatening phone calls and text messages that referees receive following games.

Overall, I would say that I am a supporter of referees. I think they often get a raw deal. It doesn’t stop me complaining when they are incompetent, but I do think they do a difficult job under a great deal of pressure.
However, despite being a supporter, I cannot understand why any referee would ever threaten strike action over the amount of money they are paid.

For refereeing an SPL game that doesn’t involve the old firm, a fee of £600 for a referee who does the job part-time seems pretty good to me.

By all means negotiate for a bigger pay rise but do not threaten strike action and do not dress the negotiations up into anything other than a demand for more money.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Graham Fisher


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