Neil Lennon has described the threats made against referee John Beaton following his failure to take action against Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos during the latest Old Firm derby as “absolutely disgraceful”.
The official called in the police after being targeted online, while Celtic issued a strongly worded statement after it was decided the Colombian would face no retrospective action although he was seen appearing to kick at Hoops captain Scott Brown before lashing out at attacker Ryan Christie and standing on defender Anthony Ralston’s back.
Beaton received a police escort as he arrived at Somerset Park for Ayr United’s Championship match with Falkirk at the weekend while the referees’ union called for action, claiming the abuse of match officials had reached “crisis point”.
Lennon himself has, of course, been subject to abuse and threats, the latest being graffiti - “Hang Neil Lennon” - daubed on a wall near Tynecastle prior to the derby in October in which he was hit by a coin.
And he declared: “It’s absolutely disgraceful. I think it’s dragging the name of Scottish football into the gutter.
“I’ve been involved in incidents like this - as a lot of people have been - and it just seems to be one thing after another now.
“It’s shameful and my sympathies go to John and his family. The guy is just trying to do his job as honestly as he can so we have to address this issue.
“I’ve been saying for a long time now, the authorities aren’t strong enough on the perpetrators of these acts.
“The authorities - whether it’s in football or in government - need to crackdown on this.
“It’s happening far too often and it’s very, very distressing, not only for the individual but his loved ones and friends.
“It’s just totally out of order. It’s a game of football but these people need to be brought to justice and humiliated in public.
“Hopefully that will be a deterrent for anyone else thinking about doing it.
“Referees get criticised and that’s fine because they will make mistakes as we all do - but don’t go beyond that. It’s a game of football at the end of the day.
“It’s a sport that we all love and these people are darkening the image of the game. Scottish football in essence is a great public spectacle and these people are spoiling it.
“And it’s not a minority either - my worry is that it’s happening far too often now.”