Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom: John Fleming's work must be continued
Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom has paid tribute to Scotland’s head of referees John Fleming and has called on the SFA to ensure the work he had done in building relationships between clubs and officials carries on.
Fleming, who has died at the age of 62 following a pro-longed illness, had led the SFA’s referees’ department for the past eight years, often finding himself fielding calls from irate managers annoyed at decisions which had gone against their side early on a Monday morning.
It may have been a role hidden from the public gaze - and perhaps one many fans didn’t have much knowledge of - but, insisted Heckingbottom, Fleming was an important avenue via which grievances were aired and clarification of decisions were sought.
The Easter Road head coach said: “I want to put on record our condolences to John’s family. I hope that his work, in terms of improving and building the relationships between clubs and referees and officials, carries on.
“For me. someone needs to take up that mantle and carry on that work and progress it. It is important that we, as a club, do make it clear how much we appreciate the work that he has been doing in that area.
“We have tried to be open and invited referees to come in here and work with us, to build those relationships, which is important, because everyone wants the same things, the fans, the clubs, the players, the coaches, managers, to improve the game. That was a big commitment of John’s and we need someone to step in and try to fill his shoes, someone to be an unsung hero who maybe won’t get a lot of credit, but is spoken about when things go wrong.
“They are very much needed. Maybe this is an opportunity to take a look at how things are done, this is a really, really important role.”
“John was a private man and many people will be shocked to learn of his passing after an illness borne with fortitude,” said Scottish FA president Rod Petrie, the former Hibs chairman.
“His commitment was unstinting to the game, his colleagues and the association.”