Among the first pieces of advice that Bobby Madden received when he became a Category One match official was to avoid the controversies around refereeing.
There will always be contentious moments, and the media will always scrutinise and debate them, but officials are urged to detach themselves from the coverage. It must be increasingly difficult.
In recent weeks, Steven Lomas has received an eight-match ban, while Kenny Shiels alleged on Friday that evidence was "fabricated" when he was being disciplined by the Scottish Football Association's tribunal. The Kilmarnock manager had a series of grievances, not least with Euan Norris after the referee sent off Rugby Park goalkeeper Cammy Bell last month. Shiels received a three-game ban, with a further two-match sentence suspended, but he is considering an appeal.
Loading article content
At times, it seems the relationship between managers and referees is strained towards breaking point. Neil Lennon recently called for Vincent Lunny, the SFA's compliance officer, to communicate more with clubs, and the sense was of the authorities and those who take part in the game being estranged. Madden disagrees with that notion, but acknowledges a better working relationship is possible.
"I try not to get involved [in spats with managers]," Madden said. "But it's very difficult. Your friends, family and colleagues will let you know if you get a mention in the newspapers. Managers discussing decisions and Kenny Shiels, I tend not to take any notice. There can never be enough communication, though.
"We've had the managers and captains meeting which has become an annual gathering where John Fleming [the head of referee development], managers, captains and a couple of Category One referees discuss implementations and any amendments to the law for the upcoming season.
"Could that happen more often? Maybe. But now having Craig Thomson and Steven McLean operating within the department, they are going out to visit the clubs. They are having their training sessions and discussions so the communication is there. If we can open it up and make it happen more often it would benefit everyone. Within refereeing, we will always be judged on how the top referees are performing in the matches on television. Generally, this season's performances have been of a very good standard."
Under Fleming, who succeeded Hugh Dallas, managers can seek an explanation for contentious decisions, or even just air their complaints, on the evening or the day after a game. Fleming also speaks to each match official every week, so they know if they have made a mistake. The intention is to ensure that resentment doesn't breed, but also that referees are praised and criticised when their performances merit it.
Like most of his colleagues, Madden prefers this set-up to the prospect of referees addressing the media after matches. He was one of the match officials who participated in the Whistleblower initiative on the SFA website, when referees would post an explanation of certain decisions, or admit to any mistakes, online but which only ran from January 2007 to May 2008.
"Just as managers sometimes say things after matches that they might later regret, referees could fall into the same category," Madden said. "John Fleming is there and if the managers have a problem with any decision we have made then that channel is open to them.
"I can assure you the one thing I don't want to do is make a decision that affects a result. That's the bottom line. You call what you see and I think [a referee] coming out and admitting that is not going to help. John is the perfect channel for that. If it's a clear error – we've all made mistakes – John can clear it up, but I don't think immediately after the match is the time to discuss that."