It’s a bad reflection on our game when a referee is often involved in European competitions for longer in a season than our clubs.

Willie Collum’s credentials as an elite official are exemplified with this claim, though.

The Scottish referee is often viewed as a pantomime villain among various football supporters across the length of the country. In recent months he’s particularly come under scrutiny following a controversial moment in the latest derby between Celtic and Rangers.

He returned to Ibrox for the first time since that incident, and subsequently since Rangers requested he be kept away from any matches involving the club, last weekend for their Scottish Cup fifth round tie against Ayr United.

The game passed without major incident and Philippe Clement even gave his backing to the experienced official before the game.

Crawford Allan has revealed Collum is grateful for the support he’s received since the convoluted situation involving the review of Alistair Johnston’s handball during Celtic’s 2-1 victory at Parkhead on December 30.

And the governing body’s head of refereeing sent out a stern reminder that he is not highly regarded by UEFA for no reason.

READ MORE: Celtic vs Rangers offside images cleared up by SFA chief

On Rangers’ request, he explained: “When it was reported, the word used was ‘rebuffed’ in terms of statements and requests from any club. I have had it from clubs further down the line and further up the line.

“At no point will a club influence a decision of a referee appointment in Scotland. I can categorically state that the Scottish FA will appoint referees to the best of that person’s experience, ability and professionalism.

“We will be appointing referees as their experience and profile is appropriate for.

“We totally reject any request from any club that a referee would not be considered for their club appointments.

“We will always protect referees. I know from speaking to Willie privately over the last few weeks, and during that week, that he was grateful and happy with the level of support the Scottish FA gave him, privately and publicly.

“We don’t want to make any massive headlines from one referee. It doesn’t matter if it’s one person’s name out there, it affects all the referees. We have to protect them all.

“I have had a similar request from a club in tier 5 recently, asking that a referee didn’t do their games. I think they were potentially jumping on a bandwagon.

“I read with interest last week that the Rangers manager was supportive of William and I thank him for that. It was well received and was the right thing to do.”

Regardless of the lack of initial clarity surrounding the offside, some have voiced their views that there was an error in judgment by Collum over the handball. The VAR official reviewed the incident but did not advise that on-field referee Nick Walsh take a look at it on the pitchside monitor.

Allan would rather Collum made the decision based on the offside when looking back at the Attacking Phase of Play rather than for the handball call, which is subjective, but he doesn’t feel he made a cock-up.

READ MORE: The 13 VAR mistakes in full including Rangers, Celtic and Hearts calls

“It’s hard to say he made a mistake because he didn’t make a factual process error,” the 56-year-old continued. “It was a subjective decision that Willie made and he is entitled to that.

“Would I have preferred if the handball had been examined through to an APP (Attacking Phase of Play)? Yes. But I am not going to say that Willie has done anything wrong in terms of process or an error. Willie is entitled to take a view, looking at it from every angle at full speed.

“In slow motion, I think it does make it look worse, but at full speed – which Willie looked at – he made an experienced decision.

“Remember that Willie is on the elite referee list at UEFA. Willie is away representing Scotland for a European match in the next week.

“I think a fact sometimes missed is that referees are regularly one of the last – if not the last – team from Scotland to stay in European football.”

Collum was thrust back into the spotlight in regards to Rangers last weekend. The timing of that appointment by the SFA has been defended as totally normal by Allan.

He said: “I think if you think as the manager of a team if a player is in the headlines then a manager will sometimes choose to make a decision on that player.

“I have a team of referees that I have to protect and look after and it’s about getting the best from my team and making sure we are seen to support and protect the referees.

“But, at the same time, we have a job to do and it’s up to us to do that job and we will do it.

“It was always in my mind quite clearly that Willie would be considered for any game. We never set a time on that. Willie could have gone six weeks or eight weeks without getting Rangers, it would just have been how the matches landed. It was never hard and fast.’

With at least two derbies involving Glasgow’s big two still to come this season, it was then put to the referee chief if Collum would be in consideration for them.

He quipped: “Are you talking about the Edinburgh derbies, aye? Willie will be in the frame with every other referee for consideration for games, whether they be in the league, in the cup or whatever. We’ll make that decision nearer the time.”