Steve Conroy: I was promised I would get my throat slashed by a coach during a youth football match

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A self-confessed Celtic fan, Conroy walked away from Scottish football in 2012 following a lack of support over a controversial Rangers penalty call.

Ex category 1 referee Steve Conroy has opened up on the severe threat he faced when covering a youth game in Scotland during the early stages of his officiating career.

Match officials in Scottish football often face intimidation from the sidelines on a weekly basis and Conroy knows first-hand just how serious it can get.

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The former top-flight whistler, who decided to quit refereeing in 2012 following the SFA’s lack of support over a controversial decision during a match between Rangers and Dunfermline at Ibrox in December 2011, has become a leading analyst of key talking points alongside ex-colleague Des Roache on the Get Involved Referee podcast.

Former Grade 1 referee Steve Conroy (Image: SNS Group)Former Grade 1 referee Steve Conroy (Image: SNS Group)
Former Grade 1 referee Steve Conroy (Image: SNS Group) | SNS Group

Speaking to Grosvenor Sport, Conroy recalled the horrifying moment he felt his life was in real danger. The 56-year-old said: “I was promised a slashing when a Class 5 ref, by someone on the coaching side. Just because I told the team that they hadn’t done a substitution properly.

“Over at the side of the pitch, I was told: ‘That’s it, ref, you’re getting a slashing after this’. Would you believe, at a youth game. The worst thing of all is that I actually believed it. I know it sounds blasé but I just had to get on with it.

“I could put it to the back of my mind quickly enough but that was because I’d an escape route planned in my mind if anything were to happen. It was very obvious to me that the away side were on edge as well. So I knew fine if anything happened, I’d be going to that side of things.

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“After the game, it was straight into the changing room and off. I remember that day being awful from beginning to end. I was thinking: This isn’t worth it. Depending where the game is, you could be away all day away from home. I did games with pitches stuck in the middle of the high flats where the changing room and, I’m sure it’s an exaggeration, feels like a mile away. I’m planning my route of getting out if something happens.

“I remember one time a crowd coming round with their cargo, surrounding the pitch. They were absolutely steaming, flinging bottles about, smashing glass on the side of the pitch. That’s bad enough but not anywhere near some of the things that are quoted.

“Thankfully, I was a late starter, getting into it a bit older than others. So I came through it quickly enough, was pushed a bit and, once I got to the higher levels of the game, I never had a moment’s fear. If I’d been a year delayed, if I was younger then I couldn’t have put up with more of those incidents. A lot of guys must think: Bugger this.”

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