SINCE football began, refereeing decisions have always been a topic of fierce debate.

The much-maligned men – and increasingly, women – in the middle can have a tough time from the fans, managers and pundits alike.

Now, a new book aims to turn the spotlight on this “important facet” of Scottish football.

Drew Herbertson, 67, from East Kilbride, worked as an administrator for Scottish football’s governing body the SFA for almost 40 years.

(Image: Drew Herbertson)

His book, Football Refereeing in Scotland, from PublishNation, charts the progress of the discipline since the Scottish Football Association’s formation in 1873 all the way through to 2023.

Drew said: “Refereeing has been an overlooked subject amongst the vast number of books produced on football.

“Football Refereeing in Scotland seeks to redress the balance. The story is told through the committee structures of the Scottish Football Association.

“The important contributions of various individuals who have played a hugely influential and pivotal role in shaping refereeing in Scotland, and further afield, are revealed as the story unfolds.

“It is ultimately a tribute to them and their commitment to refereeing and to football.”

(Image: PublishNation)

Drew worked for the SFA for 37 years, initially within the coaching section, then as head of the disciplinary and referee department and latterly in referee administration.

After retiring in 2019, he delved deep into the SFA’s archives to begin work on his book.

He added: “My hope is that the book, as a record of the development and organisation of refereeing in Scotland, brings knowledge of what has happened, and goes on, in refereeing to a wider audience.

“I think much of it would be unknown.”

The book recognises the role played by several Scottish FA Secretaries, including Sir George Graham, who played a hugely important part in the introduction of the refereeing structure.

It also includes two famous Glasgow referees, whom many Times Past readers might recall: Jack Mowat, who refereed the famous European Cup Final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park in 1960, and Tom “Tiny” Wharton, famous in the 50s and 60s, whose natural stature commanded much respect.

(Image: Newsquest)

Jack Mowat was a dominant figure in Scottish refereeing for 30 years, explained Drew.

“He had a profound influence on Scottish refereeing and devoted a huge amount of time to improving standards,” he says. “He retired in 1990 at the age of 84, and as a lasting tribute to his remarkable contribution the SFA commissioned The Jack Mowat Trophy, which since 1994 has  been awarded to the referee of the Scottish Cup Final.”

Our archives are full of pictures and anecdotes about Mowat and Wharton.

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One reader, Gordon Cubie, got in touch after we published a picture of the famous 1960 European Cup Final at Hampden, where Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3, with the snippet: “In this age of multi-million pound transfers and hugely inflated wages, I remember the story that the Glasgow referee for the final, Jack Mowat, submitted his expenses to UEFA. Sixpence for a return fare on the bus….”

That was, in fact, Mowat’s last match as referee, and he earned praise for his handling of the fixture, at the age of 52.

One story about Wharton says there was a Hearts player in the 60s who often left his dentures in the dressing-room. Sending him off for a foul during one game, Wharton pointed in the direction of the dressing-room and told him: “It’s time to rejoin your teeth.”

Celtic star Bertie Auld once played for Birmingham City. One night, Wharton was in charge of a game in which Birmingham took on the Spanish side, Espanyol.

The story goes that, before kick-off, Auld told Wharton, “How about that – you and me the only Scots on the pitch in a big European tie?”

During the game, Auld fouled a Spanish player. “Remember when you said there would be two Scots on the pitch tonight?” Wharton told him. “Now there’s going to be only one. Off you go.”

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Drew agrees being it is “nothing new” that referees are criticised.

“Referees have to operate within a difficult environment,” he says. “Much work is carried out behind the scenes, which will be barely known about. The book is a record of all the work, commitment and dedication which has gone behind the scenes to ensure that refereeing is the best it can be in Scotland.”

Drew, who is now researching a follow-up book about Scotland’s international referees, adds: “And without all of that happening, there would be no game of football, something which is easy to forget.”