Football: Euro Law Clears Way for Bosses to Criticise Refs

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), December 5, 2000 | Go to article overview

Football: Euro Law Clears Way for Bosses to Criticise Refs


Byline: NEIL McLEMAN on how the Advocaat gag row will soon be a thing of the past

THE SFA rule gagging managers from criticising referees is illegal under European law, a top Scots legal expert has revealed.

In the latest example of international law overriding football's own regulations following the Bosman ruling, the European Convention on Human Rights gives individuals the right to the freedom of expression which is denied by Article 130 of the SFA.

As long as managers do not libel match officials, the new laws state any person should be allowed to express an opinion without fear of penalty - which includes anyone commenting on the performance of referees.

The legality of SFA rules - and the governing body's determination to uphold them - will be tested next week when Celtic appear before the general purposes committee to explain comments made in the Celtic View criticising the referee in the August game against Motherwell when Chris Sutton was sent off.

A successful defence by Celtic would have major implications for the game in Scotland and the way it is reported.

Rangers manager Dick Advocaat had to bite his tongue following Sunday's win over Hearts for fear of being hammered by the SFA after referee Stuart Dougal sent off Claudio Reyna and Arthur Numan in the space of five minutes.

Article 130 states that football club officials can be fined or banned for accusing match officials of showing "bias or incompetence".

But the European Convention on Human Rights, which became part of Scottish law in October, states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers."

Rod McKenzie, the head of litigation at Glasgow law firm Harper Macleod, defeated the SFA over the Jorg Cadete registration case and now says the new national law takes precedence over any SFA regulations.

He said: "Article 10 of the European Court of Human Rights has, since October been part of the law of Scotland. …

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