x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Spare a thought for the striking football referees of Scotland

The Scottish men in black have withdrawn their labour for today's matches, in protest at becoming the game's unofficial punchbags, targets for the fury of fans, players and managers on a weekly basis.

"It's s**** being Scottish!" That infamous line, from the film Trainspotting, was uttered by a Scotsman before an impassioned speech which bemoaned his ill fortune to be born into such a dour, depressed and downtrodden people.

He should think himself lucky. At least he was not a Scottish football referee.

The Scottish men in black have withdrawn their labour for today's matches, in protest at becoming the game's unofficial punchbags, targets for the fury of fans, players and managers on a weekly basis.

Around 10 games will probably be saved today after the Scottish FA managed to source a ragtag band of strikebreakers from as far as Portugal, Malta and Luxembourg. The rest, however, faced cancellation.

It is easy to mock referees. They often cut a ridiculous figure, with their puffed-out chests and those pompous come-hither expressions they like to adopt before flourishing a yellow card.

But imagine the amount of abuse these men have weathered over the years. From foul-mouthed taunts on the touchlines of junior and weekend league matches to the baying mobs of Celtic Park and Ibrox. For long enough they accepted this abuse as an occupational hazard, shielded perhaps by a sense of duty, professionalism and a genuine love for the game.

So imagine the depths of despair to which they were driven to take such drastic action as a strike.

Imagine the pain it must have caused them to hurt the game they love. And, most tragic of all, imagine their faces when the weather forecast came through for today: an unseasonably early snowfall means many games will probably be cancelled anyway, and the absence of referees irrelevant.

Oh dear. Like the man said, it's s**** being Scottish.