Referees know they will be scrutinised more than ever during the coming Scottish Premiership season, a top official has said.
Despite the campaign beginning in empty stadiums, Kevin Clancy confirmed he and his colleagues are “under no illusions” that every decision will be firmly under the microscope.
Celtic are going for a record 10 consecutive titles to beat the mark first set by themselves under Jock Stein and equalled by Rangers in 1997.
Clancy said: “I can absolutely guarantee you that the referees officiating in the Premiership know exactly what’s at stake this season.
“We are under no illusions that every decision, probably almost every game, will be scrutinised to a level that even you guys in the media probably haven’t seen for a long, long time.
“The guys have been training hard and are ready for the season to start. We really do know what’s at stake for the whole of the division.”
Referees might be expected to be grateful for the peace and quiet in closed door circumstances but Clancy is looking forward to supporters being allowed back in Scottish grounds when coronavirus measures allow.
Clancy, who has refereed two of the last three league clashes between Celtic and Rangers, said: “What referees and players are going to find is that the intensity that surrounds a match – the crowd noise, atmosphere – in many ways I suppose it risks having the feel of a friendly fixture.
“It will be the atmosphere and intensity more than anything else that we’ll miss and will probably be looking forward to when spectators are being allowed back in, hopefully at some point later in the year.
“When you’re involved in the big games, you know it means a lot to the players and the fans. A lot of guys will thrive off the pressure, you know you have to up your game, you know a lot’s riding on it.
“So not having the crowd there will be disappointing and will obviously make the experience different.”
The official feels the noise usually keeps them on their toes because they know every decision is being monitored.
“I’d like to hope it won’t affect the decision-making,” the FIFA-listed official said. “You’re right though, in a big game, crowd noise, you know you are under pressure, you know every decision is being carefully scrutinised, it certainly keeps your concentration and your focus up.
“It will maybe a challenge for referees in empty stadiums will just be making sure that because not very much seems to be happening, we don’t get lulled into some sort of false sense of security and concentration levels and focus remains at top level.
“But we’re all human, so it would be wrong of me to say that crowd noise isn’t an important aspect of football matches.
“Not having the crowd probably should make it easier because you don’t feel that every decision is constantly being booed or criticised but it will just be important for me and the other guys that even though there is no crowd there, we are still bringing the same levels of performance.”