RANGERS directors may well have felt compelled to both write and speak to SFA officials about referee Kevin Clancy this week because of the genuine concerns they had about his performance in their cinch Premiership match against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Tuesday night. 

The Ibrox club’s winger Ryan Kent did not, any fair-minded observer would agree, deserve to be booked and ordered off late on in the game for his challenge on Scott Brown. Other infractions which appeared far more deserving of punishment, meanwhile, were ignored. So their unhappiness was understandable.

Clancy is an experienced match official. But it is fair to say he got a few big calls wrong in his first top flight game after the winter shutdown. The Scottish champions, then, were quite entitled to voice their grievances.

Meaningful dialogue is, as any conflict resolution specialist will tell you, healthy. It is far better to have a full and frank exchange of views than to seethe in silence. If improvements are made as a result of what have been described as “constructive talks” then they are to be welcomed.

Was, though, placating supporters who were furious after a 1-1 draw that resulted in their lead at the top of the league table being reduced to four points also a motivation for he Rangers hierarchy?

They had certainly been called on to take action by many of their followers in the wake of the disappointing result. And they were widely praised yesterday when it became public knowledge they had done so.

Everyone involved in the Scottish game, players, managers and club owners, must be very wary of demonising referees either unwittingly or deliberately in order to quell potential unrest among their fans no matter how justified their complaints are. Doing so can have serious repercussions.

When he spoke to The Lowdown Tactics podcast back in 2020, Willie Collum revealed that he had come close to quitting on many occasions due to the intense pressure he had felt under and the sickening abuse he had suffered.

He told of the mental toll that on online petition calling for him to be sacked had caused and revealed how his wife had been left shaken and upset when he was accosted by a group of men on a Christmas shopping trip. He has also received threatening phone calls at his home in the past. His powerful interview drew sympathy and support from all quarters. How quickly people forget.   

Rangers stressed to the SFA that VAR can not be brought in to Scottish football soon enough this week. That process is already underway and those responsible for its implementation are hopeful it will be in use at Premiership games by the end of the year. It will undoubtedly help. But it will by no means bring an end to controversies.  

Stephen Glass was upset that Clancy refused to award Aberdeen a penalty on Tuesday night following an incident involving Rangers keeper Allan McGregor and Ryan Hedges. But whether he should have given a spot kick has divided opinion for days. So there will still be those who are unhappy with rulings when the technology is in place.

The match official had a split second to make his call at Pittodrie. If the referee was in any way unsure about what had happened then he could not give it. Nobody working for broadcaster Sky Sports could agree after watching numerous replays from different angles. So wasn’t the referee correct to allow play to continue?

The late, great Walter Smith could be an animated presence on the touchline and had countless run-ins with referees in his time. But the legendary Rangers manager always maintained that decisions evened themselves out over the course of a season. And he was right.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side failed to triumph at Pittodrie because they did not, after three weeks without a game, perform to their usual high standard, not because of any errors that Clancy may have made.

Back in 2010 our Category One officials voted to go out on strike because of the devastating effect that having their honesty and integrity questioned was having on them personally, on their families and on their professional lives. Are we nearing those sort of drastic measures again? Barely a week goes by without one of them being vilified.

Premier League managers averted potential strike action in 2008 when they signed an agreement and pledged to stop criticising referees. That proved short-lived and unsuccessful. But could a similar kind of commitment be re-examined now? Any ill-feeling would be better addressed privately given the unacceptable treatment they are sadly so often forced to endure. Just ask Willie Collum.  

Our men-in-the-middle are human beings and make mistakes. They need VAR to assist them as quickly as possible. But they are also deserving of far greater respect. Football without fans is, as has been seen during the coronavirus pandemic, nothing. But without referees it is impossible.