Leading article: A red card from the refs

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The Independent Online

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"– who guards the guard? – asked the poet Juvenal, or who refs the refs, to bring the translation bang up to do date. This weekend, there may be no top division football north of the border because Scotland's 31 senior referees have voted unanimously for a strike. They are protesting at abuse of referees, which has become all too common throughout the UK.

It's gone well beyond the usual moaning about bad decisions which – along with complaining about mistakes by players or bewildering team selections by managers – are part of the disgruntled fans' pleasure in the game. In post-match interviews managers complain with such vehemence about referees that they fan the flames of the fans' fury to the point where officials fear that footballing hyperbole could end in physical attack.

The answer to the original Latin tag was given by Plato in The Republic, where Socrates riposted that the guards must guard themselves because they believe that to be their right and duty. With football there's a more obvious answer. It's up to football's authorities to crack down on this, as on the physical bullying on the pitch, which is what cranks incivility up to something worse. The refs have blown the whistle. It's time to do some sending off.

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