Rangers fans have blasted Celtic legend Chris Sutton after he issued a defence of referees in England.

News emerged today that hundreds of grassroots whistlers south of the border have come forward and revealed that they fear for their safety when refereeing.

Over 900 referees in England responded to a questionnaire conducted by BBC Radio 5 Live, with 293 saying they had been physically abused by spectators, players, coaches or managers during matches.

Sutton responded to the figures as he appeared on BBC Breakfast. He said: "You have to ask yourself, why would anyone want to put themselves through that on a Sunday morning? I don't get that.

"If people want grassroots football to thrive and survive then the attitude towards referees from players, coaches and parents does need to change.

"It has been going on far too long and it does need to stop.

"I do have to say there was an incident about 15 years ago with my own son. I ran on to the field because I was worried about him being seriously injured.

"I had a few choice words to the referee and I look back at that moment and think that I was totally wrong to do that.

"Albeit I was a parent I got caught up in the moment. Taking a step back I didn't help the young referee at that particular time and I realise that is unacceptable.

"As I say, if we want grassroots football to really thrive then people need to start really respecting referees more.

"Otherwise, why would they do it? A lot of referees get up on a Sunday morning. they do it for virtually nothing. 

"Grassroots football needs volunteers and why would anyone want to put themselves through abuse on a Sunday morning? I don't understand that."

Sutton is never shy of being critical of professional referees both in Scotland and England when working as a television pundit for BT Sport.

Due to this, some Rangers fans called out Sutton's comments on Twitter as they blasted his "hypocrisy".

One wrote: "Having someone known for regularly hammering refs fronting this campaign is short-sighted at its very best."

Another tweeted: "Hypocrisy from Chris here, if you view his commentary on Scottish football, he essentially accuses the referees up here of cheating to help one club above another, putting untold pressure & encourages fans to accuse & threaten the officials."

And a third added: "Chris Sutton has a history of trying to get people to believe refs in Scotland are corrupt, Chris Sutton is nothing but a hypocrite."