DOUGLAS ROSS insists he is still getting pelters for advising Willie Collum to dismiss Jozo Simunovic in a fiery Old Firm clash.
Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives as well as being a Scottish FA elite assistant referee, went viral during the 3-2 win for the Hoops at Ibrox in March 2018 after visibly shouting ‘red card’ when Simunovic swung an arm at Alfredo Morelos.
While the call appeared the correct one, Ross has revealed that one elderly worker refused to let him forget about the decision on a recent PPE [personal protective equipment] factory tour in the Borders.
He recalled: “Fifty per cent of Glasgow agreed with me. Fifty per cent disagreed. I think most neutral observers of the game would say there was an offence of violent conduct and I was correct to tell the referee.
“But I shouted down the communications system three times, so there is all this footage of me shouting ‘red card, red card, red card!’ People don’t remember that the decision was correct, people just remember that I got a Celtic player sent off.
“Recently I just happened to be on a visit with David Mundell and his son, Oliver Mundell, who is a member of the Scottish Parliament in the Borders, and we were going around a factory which was making PPE.
“A lady in her mid-60s was at a sewing machine and I heard her say ‘there’s bloody Red Card walking past!’
“This mature lady was a strong supporter of Celtic and two-and-a-half years after I made that decision, she still recognised me and didn’t let me forget that she was not in agreement with me.”
That criticism is gentile compared to some of the stick Ross receives during a match-day, with the combination of a Tory politician and match official often a recipe for unpopularity.
He continued: “You can hear a lot during the warm-up and there are really personal comments at that stage.
“When you are stretching next to the perimeter, that is when they really have a go at you.
“My politics, my parentage – the fact I couldn’t have had a mother and father, and have been born in wedlock because I’m a Tory in Scotland. I get Brexit comments quite a lot too.
“A lot of it is in good nature and some of it isn’t so much – but you take the rough with the smooth.”
Ross, who has overseen two Scottish Cup finals, a Riyadh derby and is a Champions League regular, has also opened up on his rapport with managers on the touchline, admitting that political persuasions can come up.
He laughed: “I remember doing a game and, although I won’t name the manager, he is a difficult guy in the dugout. I got absolutely fed up with him and decided I wouldn’t respond to him. But he kept nipping, kept nipping.
“Eventually he said ‘I vote Tory, you know – you’ve got to speak to me!’
“I was a wee bit nicer to him then, but not much because he had annoyed me for the 87 minutes prior to that.”
Meanwhile, speaking to the Political Party Podcast with Matt Forde, Ross addressed the controversy which resulted from him missing a VJ Day service to officiate Kilmarnock’s fixture against St Johnstone last August, mere weeks into his tenure as leader.
Ross later apologised for the lapse in judgement and donated his match fee to Help For Heroes.
He added: “I should have seen that coming as a local MP. We do a lot with the military in Moray. We have RAF Lossiemouth, Kinloss Barracks and I don’t know why I didn’t.
“I wouldn’t blame anyone else, it was all on my shoulders. When I accepted the game, I was only an MP – I hadn’t even considered the leadership – but even then I should have realised it was an issue. And I didn’t.
“All I can do is kick myself a hundred times and apologise. I’ve made a few mistakes and I’ll make more, but I’ll try to learn from them.”