Scotland faces a football shutdown next weekend after top-level referees decided to take a stand against perceived attacks on their personal integrity. Officials are understood to have voted to refuse appointments for the upcoming round of fixtures following a meeting yesterday.
Referees have become increasingly concerned for their safety, and that of their families, in the wake of criticism from a number of quarters amid what they claim are slights on their character.
Match officials have dominated the Scottish football agenda since Dougie McDonald rescinded a penalty he initially awarded to Celtic during their 2-1 win at Dundee United on 17 October.
The Scottish Football Association chief executive, Stewart Regan, who launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding McDonald's decision, later announced plans to launch a "respect" campaign towards match officials.
However, former SPL referee Stuart Dougal last night claimed that match officials had overwhelmingly supported the idea to withdraw their labour. Dougal said: "My understanding is it was unanimous. It's not against any criticism over the peaceful fans generally, nor managers and players coming out after a match and putting a point across.
"What's got to referees is the level of abuse, the intensity of the criticism and of the scrutiny. A number of referees have aired concern about safety. My understanding is there are referees who believe, not only their own personal safety, but that of their family [is at risk] as well: when it gets to that level it is unacceptable."
Dougal added: "The last six weeks there probably hasn't been a day go by when there hasn't been a referees story and it has gone beyond one or two decisions on the pitch, it's become innuendo and that in turns fuels certain views. The phone-ins and the like are all contributing to making the life of a referee very, very uncomfortable."