Charlie Richmond has blamed favouritism among decision-makers within the Scottish Football Association for driving him to retire as a referee.
The experienced Richmond took charge of his last game at Livingston on Saturday after deciding that day to end his refereeing career of more than 20 years.
The 43-year-old revealed he had been unhappy for the last 18 months and felt he was being deprived Clydesdale Bank Premier League games for reasons other than his ability.
Richmond told BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound programme: "The reason I went, in any organisation if you lose the support of decision-makers and some of your colleagues then I think it's time to walk away.
"You can stay and try to change things but the minority will never do that over the majority.
"You can stay there and be walked over or you can do what I have done and go out at the top of your game."
Richmond, who has been a category one official since 2000 and was promoted to the FIFA list in 2003, blamed "people within a position of power at the SFA".
He said: "I wouldn't like to name them but the people know who I'm talking about. Referee committee members who you would expect to get support from who say it's nothing to do with your refereeing ability and your experience but you won't be getting high-profile games because you're not seen as a team player.
"That absolutely gutted me. I spent 12 months without an SPL game and many times I acted as a fourth official and I felt I supported my colleagues throughout the 90 minutes.
"The fact we don't share the same conversations or humour doesn't mean to say you are the bad apple.
"Apparently I'm not a team player. My interpretation is it means I don't suck up to the right people."
Richmond believes currying favour with those in high places in the refereeing structure has been a key element to some match officials getting promoted earlier than they might.
"Ability has got to be there but if you move in the right circles you get the rewards," he said.
"There will be a natural progression. When a guy is doing a job efficiently all the time that person is going to come through.
"That person doesn't need to stab him in the back in order to get to that position quicker."
Richmond, who has a reputation among players and coaches as being one of the more approachable match officials, added: "We need to start making it a level playing field and we need to starting treating people like human beings."(reopens) The SFA issued a brief initial response to Richmond's comments.
An SFA spokesperson told Press Association Sport: "Referee appointments are based on performance. In recent seasons, Charlie fell short of the required standard."