Thursday, October 28, 2010

Celtic fans warned they face five years in jail for abusing referees

Thugs who threaten Scotland's referees face five years in jail if they are caught.

Legal chiefs issued the warning after the Record told how Old Firm ref Willie Collum and his family were subjected to death threats in phone calls to their home on Sunday.

Collum was targeted after giving Rangers a controversial penalty. And a senior prosecutor last night told twisted fans they will face "the full rigour of the law" if they threaten refs.

Crown Office director of operations Scott Pattison said: "New legislation came into force on October 6 and created a new of fence of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner.

"This offence covers telecommunications and, if convicted on indictment, carries a sentence of up to five years' imprisonment, or a fine, or both."

The Crown Office said the new law could also be used to prosecute fans who threaten or abuse referees - or anyone else - at games.

We revealed on Tuesday that Collum received a number of threatening phone calls at his Lanarkshire home hours after Sunday's derby.

In one call, at hug threatened to "go after him and his wife and children".

It's understood Collum reported the calls to police but refused the offer of police protection at his home.
The SFA said there was a sectarian element to the calls, one of which was taken by Collum's wife. A spokesman said: "This kind of behaviour is abhorrent and has no place in football."

Celtic plan to write to the SFA to ask for an explanation of Collum's penalty decision.

Manager Neil Lennon said: "If there's a perception Celtic are putting referees under pressure, it's an unfair perception.

"If I feel a controversial decision has gone against us, I have the right to ask questions."

But he added: "I didn't want the penalty incident to spill over into something that affected Willie's health and wellbeing. It's a game of football and people have to remember that."

Several referees are said to be considering their futures because they feel they are being put under too much pressure over decisions.

Linesman Steven Craven quit this week after the row over a decision to deny Celtic a penalty at Dundee United.
And Dougie McDonald, who refereed the game, has told bosses he is unhappy with how officials are being treated.
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