Craig Brown has told referees they must learn to deal with criticism and show greater maturity ahead of a footballing weekend decimated by their strike action.
The SFA have confirmed that Motherwell’s match against Hearts this weekend will go ahead, refereed by foreign official, appeasing initial fears that Motherwell may pay a heavy price for the transgressions of other clubs.
Yet even with the immediate concern of a postponed match out of the way, the ‘Well boss couldn’t hide his ire towards a refereeing fraternity who he believes need to ‘grow up’.
An uncharacteristically aggravated ‘Well gaffer said: “Everyone has been criticised in this game.
“If any referee had been the Scotland manager – not just me, you have seen it with Craig Levein recently – and had the abuse that position receives, it is incredible. Not just to yourself, but to your family.
“There is abuse in every area of this game so the referees are feeling persecuted when they are not the only ones. What I am saying to the referees is: grow up and talk to the various parties like men.”
Scottish football was thrown into chaos on Sunday as the referees announced their intention to withdraw their services for this weekends’ calendar – despite apparently not holding talks with any of the governing bodies beforehand.
Craig Brown, who knows more about Scottish football and what goes on in the corridors of power at the SFA, thinks this immediate strike is simply unacceptable.
“I think the Scottish Referees Association has embarrassed football in Scotland by taking this unilateral strike action,” the experienced manager fumed. “There are five other bodies which should have been consulted before this takes place.
“First thing they should have done was talk to Alex Smith of the Managers Union; you won’t find a more decent, sensible guy. I feel very strongly that if referees have a problem with managers then they should have consulted Alex Smith.
“Also, speak to Fraser Wishart of the Players Union; speak to David Longmuir at the SFL, Neil Doncaster at the SPL and then Stewart Regan at the SFA. If, having all five parties round the table, they still have concerns then maybe they could decide on a strike.
“It should have been dealt with in a mature, calm, sensible manner. That’s my view on the matter. The way to sort this is dialogue, not strike; strike should be an absolute last resort.
Brown also slammed the referees’ decision to carry out a blanket ban, regardless of whether or not the clubs suffering have a history of critcising referees. A fact which is particularly irksome to the gaffer, considering he has never publicly derided a referees’ performance – despite opportunity and, arguably, justification to do so.
“I would like the referees to come out and tell me what this has got to do with Motherwell Football Club. Referees make mistakes, and we have been on the end of some poor decisions, but I have never made an issue out of the errors in public and we should not be punished.
“I’ve said before that we are a non-offending club. I heard Donald Findlay, the Cowdenbeath Chairman, eloquently explaining how his club were a non-offending club – yet they have lost a Fife derby with Dunfermline because of this.
“If they had a grievance – and they clearly feel that they do – then they should have explained it specifically, because I now feel like we have a grievance. A blanket ban is not fair on many clubs, and it is cowardly.
The former Scotland gaffer has never made any secret of his strong patriotic streak, and his disappointment is clear when referring to the potential damage which is being done to the image of our national game.
“They have damaged the game to make a point, and I think there are more mature and constructive ways to make the point,” Brown insisted.
“The damage which is being done to our game in the eyes of Europe and the rest of the world is massive. I don’t know if the referees have even considered this, and I’m really quite depressed that it should come to this, because I try to promote Scottish football, and Scottish referees.”