The Referee Revolution…

Date: 10th June 2022

The first weekly blog provided to you by our Donald Stewart.

The referee revolution…

It has been a tough month, let’s face it.

We have lost the pathway, we thought was possible to the World Cup and seen the world’s favorite nation sweep past us into a final with Wales. We should perhaps spare a thought for Andy Robertson who in three games, lost a title, a European Cup and the possibility of going to World Cup Finals.

My misery is not so compounded.

But there really is not another story in Scottish Football now that merits comment more than what has been announced by a couple of footballing officials, despite the thousands of words committed to internet forums, papers and in a plethora of discussion outlets than what happened with a couple of referees. And Scottish referees at that – for many it truly is a referee revolution!

And yet, it should be hailed as an evolution as football in Scotland can show that it has arrived in the 20th Century ready for life in the 21st Century. All that has happened is that a man called Craig Napier and another by the name of Lloyd Wilson have revealed their sexuality.

The significance, for me, is that the one person on a pitch guaranteed to be abused mercilessly for the entire 90 minutes is the referee. His parentage, sexual prowess, religious preferences, and appearance are fair game to some when they make decisions on the pitch.

It makes their announcements even more significant for me; not that I care about their sexuality. I don’t. It is none of my business but their announcement? I care about that very deeply. To have had the courage, given their experiences, I am delighted we have people who can normalize the normal for the rest of us.

And by the way, I have no idea how good as referees, they may be. They could be utter rubbish. They could ref a game with my team and give away a soft penalty in the 95th minute which relegates us, and I would not be their biggest supporters. At that point I would still not care a jot about their sexuality. Any abuse I may direct towards them would question their competency and nothing else. Just as it would, had they not come out. But the coming out is huge.

It acts as a beacon for others in the game to gauge if they can safely make the announcement. An announcement? It is 2022, and in football we are still stuck in a time when coming out was a thing. But I know that, if you stand on the terraces of any British football ground and close your eyes, you can hear the views and opinions that have not travelled much since the 1970’s. As you open your eyes it is often surprising that there is not a John Motson commentary or an Arthur Montford quip as a camel hair coat brushes past you towards the terracing wall to shout some abuse directed at an ethnic player or a man who is displaying less than masculine qualities. It can be a toxic environment in which people live. Alen Pardew and former Kilmarnock manager, Alex Dyer, have made the brave decision to walk away from their job at CSKA Sofia rather than suffer more racist abuse.

The world is changing.

Napier and Wilson are part of that change that has finally arrived in Scottish football. Scottish football does not exist in a bubble. Religious bigotry, monkey chants, homophobia and other forms of abuse are not hard to find within it. I do not think that there will be a tsunami of people now announcing their sexuality.

There does not need to be.

There does need to be some form of quiet evolution in changing rooms as people accept their friends and colleagues. There needs to be an acknowledgement that mental wellbeing goes beyond the trite phrases and easy training camps.

There needs to be real change.

That would be Scottish football’s coming out, as it emerges from the dark ages and becomes a beacon for the rest of the world by going way beyond rainbow laces and LGBT football teams. We need to accept we are part of the community and woe betide any bigot who seeks to abuse the sexuality of their victim to claim that, when caught, Scottish football should be allowed to police itself.

Let us all evolve together, united against the bigots, flush those out who will not change and educate those caught up in it who wish to make that change. Know who wins then?

We aw dae…


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