FROM death threats and resignations to Euro 2012 and the Champions League knockout stages, in the space of three years. Standards of refereeing in Scotland are seemingly on the up but have they really improved?
The state of the Scottish game, often the subject of criticism and interrogation, reached its lowest ebb in 2010.
Accusations of bias were widespread, experienced officials were forced out, referees were being manhandled, linesmen grabbed by the throat while the turmoil resulted in a national strike affecting several fixtures across the country.
Colleagues from Israel, Luxembourg and Malta were recruited to overcome the unprecedented walk-out, just a month after ref Willie Collum raised safety fears after handling an ill-tempered Old Firm clash.
Charlie Richmond claimed favouritism towards certain match officials was rife within the authorities and the selection process was often influenced.
“Apparently I’m not a team player. My interpretation is it means I don’t suck up to the right people,” he declared at the time.
Even SFA talks for an increase in match fees hit a stumbling block.
Fast forward 28 months – and the picture has transformed dramatically, largely for the better it has to be said.
Since then, Referee Development Officer John Fleming promised an overhaul in bringing parties together and imposing tougher sanctions.
The men in the middle have had their fees bumped up £40 per game too, so all is well.
The Respect campaign has enhanced the relationship between players, managers and match officials which threatened to spiral out of control.
After January’s promotion of Paul Robertson, the country now has seven Uefa-listed refs compared to just four, three years ago.
The introduction of an annual New Year warm-weather training camp in Spain has helped boost morale, fitness and communication between officials.
Despite axing the mandatory retirement age, the SFA have ushered the 40-somethings out of the door and fast-tracked promising younger talent.
John Beaton, Bobby Madden and Kevin Clancy have progressed to the highest level while at the age of 32, Steven McLean stepped out at Celtic Park recently to officiate the League Cup Final.
Craig Thomson beat off competition from some of the best whistlers on the continent to become one of 12 referees at Euro 2012.
Although card statistics and major incidents decreased in 2013, the absence of Celtic’s titanic rivalry with Rangers was felt while next season’s top-flight will be without the explosive Edinburgh derby.
Fans may remain sceptical towards officiating north of the border but all the signposts are pointing down the road of recovery and a future filled with optimism.
Charlie Richmond Image by Graeme Bird via Creative Commons/License
Dons vs Gers Image by @notnixon via Creative Commons/License
Rangers Attack Image by FLC via Creative Commons/License