Date: 15th June 2019 at 9:43am
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A Grade One Scottish referee has been forced to retire from the game after offensive Facebook messages about Neil Lennon came to light.

Stephen Brown had managed to work his way through the system without anyone at the SFA picking up on his attitude but nine years later his dreams of running out at Celtic Park or Ibrox with a whistle rather than a flag are in tatters.

The Daily Mail reports:

A top Scots referee has stepped down over historic offensive Facebook messages concerning Celtic and their manager Neil Lennon and apologised for his actions.

Stephen Brown, 35, posted a series of unsavoury sectarian, discriminatory and homophobic social media posts. The messages, seen by Sportsmail and now deleted, date back to 2010.

Written shortly before the Scottish FA sacked former referees chief Hugh Dallas for forwarding an offensive email concerning the Pope, the governing body were informed of Brown’s indiscretions in 2014 and the matter was referred to the Judicial Panel.

Brown told the newspaper: “I expressed deep regret and remorse at the time and the person I am now is unrecognisable to the person I was then. I am embarrassed by what I wrote but there were personal issues I was dealing with that, while they don’t mitigate that behaviour, explain it.

Refereeing has given me a second chance in life and I am grateful for that opportunity. I am devastated that my actions from the past will prevent me from fulfilling my potential as a match official but appreciate that perceptions linger, regardless of how much sorrow or regret I express.”

During the 2010/11 season Lennon was attacked on the touchline at Tynecastle with two men serving prison sentences for sending bullets in the post to the Celtic boss.

As a Grade One referee Brown could have picked up £900 for taking charge of a Premiership match and got onto the lucrative FIFA circuit of regular European trips with all of the perks that it brings.

While Brown has to step down his case raises questions about the competence of the SFA for letting him slip through the net.

A check of social media accounts is essential in most workplaces to check the suitability of candidates for a job.

Perhaps full background checks will now be taken on all match officials at every level in the Scottish game.

While officials in England have to declare which team they support or have an association with there is no similar process involved in Scotland.

Last month Steve Clarke claimed that Steven McLean shouldn’t get another Kilmarnock match because he overcompensated for the fact that his father was a former Killie player.