Scotland's football officials are angry that the Turk received only a two-game ban, one suspended, for lifting his hand to assistant referee Gavin Harris during the Scottish League Cup final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in October. The Scottish Senior Football Referees Association had issued a statement on Wednesday saying the Scottish Football Association sanction sent out the wrong message, and betrayed assurances the governing body gave the referees after they withdrew their services for one weekend in 2010.
At the heart of that dispute was the controversy in which former referee Dougie McDonald was found to have lied to his match supervisor and to Neil Lennon over the circumstances of an incident in which a penalty was given to Celtic against United before the decision was reversed. Officials felt they were not being adequately protected from excess criticism at the time and it had been suggested that industrial action may be considered again over the Ciftci punishment.
However, in a further statement last night, the referees' association denied that this was on the agenda. "The SSFRA wishes to make it clear that it has not considered any form of industrial action," the release read. "It can confirm that it has received the judicial panel's explanation from the Scottish FA. Having considered the explanation, the SSFRA stands by its original statement.
"We now look forward to working positively with the SFA to identify a solution which is satisfactory to all parties and ensures that referees are protected throughout the game, particularly at grassroots level."
While Lennon sympathised with their right to protection, he argued yesterday that referees should not issue public statements on specific issues when they do not make themselves available to explain decisions which upset managers and clubs. "Maybe some people felt that the suspension was lenient but you have to take each case on its own merits," the Celtic manager said. "The strike did cause chaos last time; I think in this case it would be way over the top. Two or three years ago they were upset about a lot of things. I don't know what that was."
Citci was initially charged with seizing Harris by the throat but that was watered down by the SFA to "placing an open hand on the lower area of the assistant referee's throat". Lennon continued: "You can't lay a hand on officials. They are there to be respected and protected and maybe they think that the ban is unjust. But I'm sure there are other ways for them to make their feelings known rather than going on strike.
"Managers would love it [if the referees spoke about decisions taken in matches] but then they leave themselves open to a lot of criticism. I understand why they don't do that because John Fleming [the SFA's head of referee development] wants them protected. That's fine by me but they can't have it both ways. When things don't go for them they can't say 'we want our side to be heard' but when managers want an explanation things are not forthcoming.
"There are times I don't feel as if I'm treated fairly . . . you appeal it and sit out a ban or put up with it. There's no other way round it. I don't know the specifics or whether or not he hit him or grabbed him or what it was. But the people who set the ban felt it was more than enough and who am I to argue. I don't know the specifics."