The above pictured man with the flag is, arguably, the most (in)famous Assistant Referee in world football.
His name is Douglas Ross. He’s been doing the job in Scotland for around ten years. Most folk who run the lines barely get a second glance, but it’s there is the fact that he is also a Member of Parliament at Westminster, having been elected in 2017 after previously being a local councillor and then member of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Oh, and since August 2020, he has been leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, a position in which he gets a media platform to pontificate on all sorts of issues.
The Tories are not popular in Scotland. Indeed, in recent months, as the antics of ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnston and the policies of the new incumbent, Liz Truss have demonstrated, they are increasingly unpopular across the UK.
Now you might be wondering to yourself what all this has to do with a music blog. I’m getting there….I just felt I had to set the scene for overseas readers.
Some of you may know that I have a Saturday job, which sometimes extends to Tuesday or Wednesday nights. I am a volunteer at Raith Rovers FC and my role is to be in the Matchday Announcer’s Box, doing things like reading out the teams, mentioning match sponsors, shouting out goalscorers as the game progresses and so on. It also involves me selecting and playing the music pre-match and at half-time.
My method involves choosing a set of tunes and preloading them as a playlist to an iPod which is then plugged into the system at the stadium. There’s always about 50 minutes worth of music involved. For last Saturday’s match, I decided in advance to include a few tunes that contained subtle digs at the way the Tories are running the country – You Don’t Care About Us by Placebo and Five Get Over Excited by The Housemartins, while also adding Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag by Pigbag as some football crowds elsewhere have taken to chanting ‘Fuck The Tories’ as part of its refrain (not that I was expecting our small band of supporters to do likewise, but I was hoping perhaps that a few might mumble along).
I got handed the team sheets at around 2.15pm, which is when I see that Douglas Ross is running the line. We rarely get him at Stark’s Park as he tends to get higher profile games, but everyone, I suppose, has to do their turn. The playlist has already got underway. Prefab Sprout, Stereolab and Julian Cope have already been aired, and the players of both sides are going through their warm-ups oblivious to the fact that some of their moves make them look as if they are gyrating in sync to LCD Soundsystem.
Around ten minutes later, the referee and his assistants come out to do their warm-up. The timing couldn’t have been better. Douglas Ross is soon running around the pitch as Paul Heaton sings:-
Makes you feel doubtful right from the start
The expression she pulls is exactly like last time
You’ve got to conclude she just hasn’t a heart
Now, I know that Douglas Ross wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to the music and had no idea about what was going on. I also doubt he even knows who The Housemartins are, never mind the sentiments in the song. But it made me laugh out loud….thankfully I had my microphone switched off. Oh, and for the record, the Placebo song was next up, and he was still running around the pitch.
At half-time, just behind the players who were heading up the tunnel just below where the matchday announcer’s box is, the referee and his assistants get together ready to do likewise. I haven’t yet cued up any music for the half-time break, so there is a bit of silence as the applause for the first half performance dies down. The voice of what sounds like a middle-aged man bellows out.
“Ross. Just fuck off you fat Tory Bastard. And take the rest of your greedy and useless Tory pals with you.”
There is a loud cheer from maybe 30 or so fans nearby. Douglas Ross looks down at his feet and walks slowly up the tunnel. I decide it’s time, again, for The Housemartins.
Oh, and for the record. Raith Rovers won 3-0. It was a good way to spend an autumnal Saturday afternoon.