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Shut up Chris Sutton: Scottish referees go to war with BT Sport over personal criticism of whistlers

Referee Craig Thomson (SNS Group)
Referee Craig Thomson (SNS Group)

BT have been told to muzzle outspoken pundit Chris Sutton following showdown talks with the Scottish Football Association.

Representatives of the television broadcasters met with SFA Head of Refereeing John Fleming on Friday at their request.

They voiced their concern at the sudden withdrawal of co-operation by Craig Thomson in the St Johnstone v Celtic Premiership game eight days ago.

It is the custom and practice of Scottish officials to co-ordinate kick-off times with BT’s outside broadcast director to work in with television scheduling and advertising.

On this occasion, though, Thomson, declined to do so.

That was because he was furious at being labelled a “bottler” by Sutton in the course of BT’s coverage of Dundee v Rangers a week earlier for failing to send off Rangers midfielder Harry Forrester for a second bookable offence.

Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton (SNS Group)
Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton (SNS Group)

It is understood the personal nature of the criticism left Thomson disappointed, and that he then contacted the SFA to ask if the co-operation was mandatory for officials.

Having been told it was not, Thomson went ahead with his protest, and the match kicked off a minute early.

It looks set to be the catalyst for change, with the SFA having signalled to BT in Friday’s meeting they would be prepared to formalise the current voluntary arrangement – provided they give assurances commentators will keep criticisms to football issues.

BT is now having in-house discussions about the situation, and it is anticipated an agreement will be struck in due course.

The SPFL are in the middle of a four-year deal with both BT Sport and Sky, believed to be worth around £15m per season.

Sutton – the former Celtic, Chelsea and England striker – has hit the headlines on several occasions already this season because of his forthright opinions.

The latest example came on Friday night when he said he felt Rangers would not win the upcoming Old Firm match on September 10 because their centre backs were not good enough.

Or, in his words: “horrendous”.