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Joe Jordan <-auth James Traynor auth-> LW Mottram
[O Coyle 3] ;[P Jack 79] ;[A Lawrence 81]
2 of 002 Ian Baird 72 L Premier H

Referees should blow the whistle on SFA and set record straight


7 Dec 1992

DAVID Syme took a dangerous risk last week.

He spoke.

Out loud, too.

And he spoke to the press.

Afterwards he probably had to switch off all the lights in his Rutherglen home, draw the curtains, pile the furniture against the doors, and tell the family to lie on the floor and keep quiet.

They probably came for him in the dead of night, whoever it is the SFA send to round up those who step out if line.

Syme, regarded as one of the biggest black hats in football or, if you prefer, one of the best referees in the business, told his side of a couple of stories.

He wanted to put the record straight, even though he was fully aware his words would make the ogres up on The Hill bristle.

The SFA don't like it when referees make public utterances.

It isn't good for the game they say, and punishment can be swift, as one official, Bill Crombie, may have discovered to his cost a couple of years or so ago, when he went on television and had the audacity to explain a decision he made during a match between Aberdeen and Celtic.

The incident involved Pat Bonner, and after offering his side of the matter, Crombie had to make the long walk up to HQ.

We were supposed to believe it was a coincidence the Edinburgh referee's name was not written down beside important games for a spell, and perhaps we should also accept as coincidence his laryngitis.

Crombie has never dared speak to any section of the media since.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Syme.

So far as I am aware, he lived through the night after he had failed to resist the urge to explain himself, and he hasn't yet been requested to turn in his whistle, pencil and notebook.

But will he speak again?

A man who works out of The House in Park Gardens said only the other day that he would be very surprised if Mr Syme made the same mistake again.

He did not elaborate.

He didn't have to.

The inference was that Syme had been taken aside for a word and warned of the consequences should he not bite his tongue in future.

If he decides he cannot run the risk again, then I suggest he would be making a big mistake.

Syme did not commit any offence.

He merely read reports of his decisions in two matches in particular and felt he should explain why he took the action he did.

In the first instance, Evan Balfour was reported as having said he felt the referee made a mistake when he booked Andy Smith in Airdrie's game against Dundee United nine days ago.

Balfour said he should have been cautioned instead, but Syme pointed out Smith was booked for having entered into an incident which had nothing to do with him.

Fair enough, and while the 48-year-old referee was in talkative mood he also went on to explain why he had booked Rangers' Ally McCoist at Tynecastle the previous week.

Those at that match, and others who watched on television later, were amazed when Syme cautioned McCoist, who appeared to have done no more than take a free kick quickly and chipped the ball into Henry Smith's net.

It transpired that Syme, who was trying to lecture other players over the incident which led to the free kick, had warned McCoist, not once but twice, to leave the ball alone.

If that was the case, then the striker deserved his booking.

However, the real significance of all of this is that a couple of controversial incidents were cleared up in a matter of sentences and, rather than prove he is someone who believes himself to be above the SFA code of conduct, Syme displayed how valuable freedom of speech can be in football.

It can be argued, of course, that Syme may have felt he could run the risk because, with Brian McGinlay now out of the game, he is probably the best referee in the country, and he may have reckoned on the authorities being reluctant to discipline him.

Whatever, the fact is Syme has done the game a favour.

He does not deserve punishment, he is due a pat on the back, and I would suggest that his colleagues follow his example.

There are those who roam the corridors of power waiting for the next committee meeting, at which they contribute not a lot, who will consider these words to be akin to preaching anarchy.

But they are the very people who are holding the game back.

Think about it.

How can football possibly embrace the future and meet the demands when it continues to cling to archaic laws?

It is absurd that the SFA have such a hold on people within the game that almost everyone is afraid to say what he thinks.

There is nothing wrong, nothing to be feared in honest opinions offered by people who care deeply about football, and perhaps referees would have a better image if allowed the chance, no, the right, to explain their decisions.

Also, it might help the SFA in their work if they were to listen to more opinion.

Hopefully, we'll hear a lot more from Syme and his people.

Speak up, gentlemen, for your rights as human beings, which, of course, you all are, apart from a couple of hours on Saturday afternoons.

Taken from the Herald

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