Answers must be demanded of Scottish FA over bigot referee
A Scottish referee has quit following the revelation that he posted sectarian and offensive comments about Celtic manager Neil Lennon on Facebook.
Stephen Brown, a Grade One referee, posted a number of offensive and bigoted messages on social media in 2010 about the Celtic boss.
Despite the 35-year-old also homophobic comments in posts now deleted, Scottish FA bosses only censured the whistler following a disciplinary hearing in 2014, and allowed to continue to referee.
This summer, when he attained the level of Category One referee, he became eligible to referee top flight games including Celtic and Rangers matches, but the Scottish FA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Plan has now blocked Brown officiating these games.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Brown said: "I expressed deep regret and remorse at the time and the person I am now is unrecognisable to the person I was then. I am embarrassed by what I wrote but there were personal issues I was dealing with that, while they don't mitigate that behaviour, explain it.
"Refereeing has given me a second chance in life and I am grateful for that opportunity. I am devastated that my actions from the past will prevent me from fulfilling my potential as a match official but appreciate that perceptions linger, regardless of how much sorrow or regret I express".
This isn’t the first time that Brown has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, in 2018 Brown angered Auchinleck Talbot players, management and fans after he Talbot’s Stephen Wilson took a blow to the head. Brown failed to stop play and when the ball did eventually go out of play, the referee confronted physio Mick McGinn prevented him from treating Wilson demanding that he get off the field.
Brown later apologised to Talbot’s management team, blaming his assistant for failing to tell him that Wilson had gone down with a head knock.
Scottish FA Referees Department & John Fleming not fit for purpose
The latest revelation about Brown is another black mark against the Scottish FA, and in particular the Refereeing department run by Head of Referees John Fleming.
Last season, Willie Collum was prevented from officiating any Rangers games following a decision to send off Daniel Candeias against St.Mirren - which resulted in the Ibrox side criticising the referee and implying that he had an ulterior motive against the club.
That was followed by the failure of the Scottish FA and referee John Beaton in explaining the decision not to send off Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos for four violent conduct incidents against Celtic players in the New Year derby defeat at Ibrox.
Not to mention Andrew Dallas, who was fast tracked thanks to who his Da’ was, handed Rangers FOUR penalties in one game against St.Mirren. Dallas has subsequently resigned from the FIFA list of referees - calling into question the organisations decision to fast track the son of shamed Hugh Dallas in the first place.
Scottish FA chief Ian Maxwell must now haul John Fleming into his office and demand to know why Brown was allowed to continue officiating despite posting clear bigoted, offensive and homophobic comments on social media - and not be sacked for gross misconduct with immediate effect.
Given that Fleming replaced Dallas as Head of Referees in 2011, after the latter was sacked for sharing a bigoted joke about Catholics and the Pope within the Scottish FA’s email system, further questions must be asked over the governing body’s continued anti-Catholic sentiment.
Especially with the admission from former whistler Steven Conroy in February, that there are more referees supporting Rangers than Celtic and that he knows of no Category One referee that supports the Scottish champions.
Time that the Scottish FA and referees disclosed club allegiances
In 2010, Scottish MP Pete Wishart called for all referees in Scotland to declare which team they supported and that they should not be allowed to referee matches involving their own team - which the English FA do.
At the time, WIshart said: "I think the ordinary football fan deserves this information to remove doubt over any decisions being taken."
There was no plans for the Scottish FA to follow the English stance on referees then and that remains true today also - with referee and former Rangers season ticket holder Bobby Madden recently being rolled out to comment against such an idea.
He said: "Would there be a benefit? I don't see it. I think it would just give increased scrutiny. We have ridiculous level of intensity and scrutiny on match officials.
"I know people unfortunately look at, 'what school did you attend?' This is just ridiculous. We are there to officiate a match. That's all we are there to do.
"If someone supported a team are they going to change? No, because we are judged on every performance by the SFA, independent observers. We want to get that match again, the next big match, the cup final, of course we do.
"We apply ourselves to get as much out of the game as we can so why would we show any benefit to one team?
"Would it make them win one match, would it make them get a point, three points, what is that going to do for my career? Nobody is going to go down that road."
A clear pattern is forming within the Scottish FA
There now seems to be a clear pattern forming within the Scottish FA of the organisation bending over backwards for one club and treating others with disdain and contempt.
From the former Scottish FA President Alan McRae publicly claiming that Celtic dominating Scottish Football was boring - despite no such comment being uttered by his predecessors when Rangers were dominating in the 90s- to Scott Brown being hauled in front of a disciplinary panel for celebrating Celtic winning a game in which two Rangers players were sent off and a third escaped a red card for a violent assault on Brown in front of match officials, 60,000 fans and a TV audience.
We then had Fleming at the Scottish FA unofficially or officially blocking Willie Collum’s appointment to Rangers games for SIX months after he the Ibrox club brought the game into disrepute over their comments about the whistler. And John Beaton being pictured in a known Rangers pub grinning like a cheshire cat in the aftermath of his failure to send Alfredo Morelos off for four attacks on Celtic players at New Year.
And this is before we even look back at Hugh Dallas, the lies from former referee Dougie McDonald, the car park shagging ex-referee Mike McCurry, the Referee strike, Bobby Tait asking to referee at his beloved Ibrox for the final time before he retired and went on countrywide Orange Lodge speaking tours.
There is a stench within the Scottish FA and the Referees Department.
And Brown’s decision to quit rather than being sacked FIVE years ago for his comments will now pile huge scrutiny on the current crop of match officials, their allegiances, credibility and future decisions for Rangers and against Celtic.
There needs to be a root and brand clear out at the Scottish FA - but given that tin pot dictator Rod Petrie has now ascended to the throne at the organisation, it is clear that Scottish Football’s Mr Creosote will do hee haw to reform such a basket case of a governing body and its not-fit-for-purpose referee department and head of referees John Fleming.