Scottish referee critics over the top, says head official Fleming

Craig Thomson, Bobby Madden and Kevin Clancy
Three of Scotland's officials (clockwise): Craig Thomson, Bobby Madden and Kevin Clancy

Scotland's head of referees has been angered by what he calls "over the top" criticism of match officials.

John Fleming believes the challenges facing referees are greater than ever but insists a good relationship exists between managers and top officials.

Fleming was speaking exclusively to BBC Scotland at the referees' winter training camp in Spain.

"There's many occasions in the six years I have been in here when referees have been really down," said Fleming.

"They have been down because they feel as if the criticism they are getting is way over the top, and I would agree with that."

'There is a line that can be crossed'

Scottish referees
Scotland's referees at their training camp in Spain

Without naming individuals, Fleming says he is sometimes angered by comments made by pundits when it comes to refereeing decisions.

"I will never be obstructive to working with the media, but there is a line that can be crossed and it has been crossed several times," he said.

"It is very frustrating. Sometimes I get angry, especially if the comments made are not technically sound. Especially if they are personalised, which they have been recently.

"That becomes very frustrating when the individual making the comments has not had the common courtesy to perhaps contact me prior to it just to find out if what they are saying is factually correct.

"My door is always open, the phone line is always open."

John Fleming
Fleming officiating at a match in 1997

Although Fleming has issues with recent media comments he says his relationship with managers is more positive.

"I have a good relationship with the SPFL Managers and coaches and other managers and coaches in Scotland, and I want to protect that," he added.

"The only way I can do it is to speak to them. Speak to them after matches, and accept the decision was wrong. Accept it was a big error. It was a clear important mistake as we phrase it in refereeing.

"And on the other hand I will tell them if the referee is right.

"It is up to me to coach the managers and the players to say [in this example] the referee is correct, and here is the reason why he is correct. So you either adopt the practice to combat that, or the referee will be correct and penalise you going forward."

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