Hibs boss calls for refereeing overhaul after Celtic Park drama

By John McGinley

March 19, 2023

Hibernian manager Lee Johnson wants the Scottish FA to introduce full-time professional referees to the Scottish Premiership after taking issue with a number of big calls made by Steven McLean at Celtic Park on Saturday.

As we discussed in the wake of yesterday’s game, Johnson was furious with all the big decisions that took place across the 90 minutes. He didn’t agree that Elie Youan deserved to be sent off for a high boot on Cameron Carter-Vickers, also feeling the referee shouldn’t have given the penalties awarded to both Hibs and Celtic in each half.

Now he reckons more money should be invested into the referees themselves, believing that the current system isn’t good enough for a league of the Premiership’s importance.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Hibs call for full-time professional referees

Johnson said, as quoted by The Sunday Post [19/03 print edition]: “I’m a bit of a lobbyist to give refs more money because I think the league should be employing professional referees. It’s a big European league. It’s important. There’s a lot of money at stake, European places at stake – there could be five clubs in Europe next season.

“You’ve got to have the standard to match and that means full-time referees working day in, day out with each other. They would be doing analysis on teams and players, working better as a team and communicating better in the technical areas or on the microphones to each other. I’ve been in both England and Scotland and there’s a stark difference.”

Hibs have had multiple run-ins with the Scottish FA recently and have even received apologies after incidents in matches involving Rangers and Dundee United. Their chief executive Ben Kensell was reported to have been involved in a ‘heated exchange’ with officials at Celtic Park after yesterday’s game, like Johnson taking issue with all of the decisions made by McLean including their own penalty. [Edinburgh Evening News]

Certainly, Celtic have had their fair share of refereeing issues this season too. Fans have been left perplexed by the inconsistency in decisions across the league and questioned the effectiveness of VAR’s roll-out across the Premiership.

Professionalising refereeing would only go so far in addressing the issues. Officiating in this country requires far more transparency and accountability, first and foremost. From the outside, the refereeing department at the Scottish FA looks like a closed club of people who will circle the wagons at any sign of criticism. If anything is to change they need to take ownership of the ongoing problems.

However, there is also merit to Johnson’s argument of referees being solely focused on their footballing work rather than any other careers they have. That would surely allow them to be more effective over the long-term.

Regardless, it’s clear that the SFA have plenty of work to do to convince clubs the current system is fit for purpose.

In other news, Kenny Dalglish lauds ‘inspirational’ Celtic star.