SCOTTISH FA chief executive Ian Maxwell says that the pressure referees are being put under by the scrutiny being applied to VAR is affecting them, and that one top referee has been subjected to physical threats in public, as well as someone defecating on their doorstep.

Maxwell concedes that the VAR process is still evolving in Scottish football and requires some improvement, but he argues that while officials are calling more decisions correctly since its introduction, the attention being put on their mistakes has intensified.

That has spilled over into some disturbing experiences for officials in their personal lives, and he contends it may also be hampering their on-field performance.

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“The match officials are the first ones who know,” Maxwell said. “They know before anybody else if they have got something wrong and it affects them.

“I hadn’t really spent a huge amount of time with the refs, but I spoke to one category one referee, and I said, ‘how does it work when something goes wrong, how do you deal with it’? And he said he just didn’t go out. He said he just stayed in the house, or he would go to his work and just come back. He tried to stay away.

“I asked how bad it had been and he said, ‘I got chased through Primark by somebody who wanted to batter me because I had made a decision’. Also, somebody had defecated on his doorstep after a game. It is embarrassing. It is embarrassing that people think that is acceptable.

“There seems to be a bit of a view that referees make a wrong decision and they just go out and do the next game and they don’t care about it. That is one hundred percent not the case.

“If a club is sending out 11 players, they want them in a really good frame of mind. They want them feeling really positive about things. They want them to feel comfortable, they want them to know that if they make a mistake they are not going to get whipped off after 30 seconds.

“I think our match officials are under so much pressure because they are being scrutinised so much that they must feel that. So how is that conducive to them going out and performing well on a Saturday?

“It doesn’t make any sense, and I think football has an obligation to make sure that is not the case and that we are giving them as much support as we can.

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“Everybody wants the decisions to be right. By putting them in a position where they know that every single decision that they make, whether it’s a throw-in on the half-way line or a penalty, is going to be scrutinised to the nth degree, it doesn’t make any sense to put them under that pressure.

“I think there is an obligation on football and on everybody within football just to kind of understand that because that will help us get right decisions. And that’s what everybody wants.

“Everybody is in it for the same thing.”

*Ian Maxwell was speaking as the Scottish FA launched the first ever ‘Week of Football’, a series of events celebrating the power of football, bookended by the Women’s and Men’s Scottish Cup Finals. More details can be found at