SCOTTISH FA TO HOLD MORE TALKS WITH REFS TO HALT STRIKE
Conspiracy theories must stop – Peat
The Scottish Football Association is to meet the Scottish Senior Football Referees' Association on Tuesday in an attempt to avert this weekend's strike.
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan told BBC 5 live that he hopes to give referees “assurances about support going forward” to halt the walkout.
But he said: “The primary focus is to make sure the fixtures are officiated.
“We are looking around Europe, talking to a number of associations and trying to put a contingency plan in place.”
Regan is understood to be focusing his efforts on sourcing referees from Ireland and Scandinavia to cover about 20 matches which are threatened by the Scottish officials' decision to strike on Saturday and Sunday.
He said: “In the first instance we are keen to understand what we could do as an association to make sure the games could go ahead this weekend.”
The Football Association of Ireland say no contact has been made by the SFA.
Sigurdur Thorleifsson, head of the referees' union in Iceland, has given his approval to the notion of his members travelling to Scotland to take charge of matches.
He said: “We have been talking about it and if we are offered the chance to go over to Scotland then it is fine by the union.”
The vice president of the Iceland Football Association, Gylfi Orrason, confirmed a request had been made by the SFA to use their referees.
The Football Association of Wales told the BBC that, while its priority was to ensure that all Welsh matches are fulfilled, it “would be able to assist with three or four officials should they be requested”.
The SFA has already held talks with the referees' union to try to persuade the officials to change their mind.
On Tuesday morning, Regan told the BBC: “There was a meeting last night. We've got a further meeting this evening.
“We are trying to put a plan in place to support referees. We recognise that they are going through a very difficult time.
“We are hopeful that talks will be fruitful this week and that we will come to a satisfactory conclusion and that they can officiate this weekend.
“It seems it is more about making a public statement and withdrawing their labour this weekend.
“But we hope that if we can give them some assurances about support going forward we can get them to rescind that decision.”
On Monday George Peat, the SFA president, called the decision by category one referees as a “sad day for Scottish football”.
The referees claim their personal safety is under threat, both on the pitch and from fans, following criticism from clubs over decisions made during recent matches.
Scottish football at fault – Dougal
Referee Dougie McDonald sparked controversy when he admitted to lying to Celtic manager Neil Lennon about how he and his assistant referee Steven Craven came to overturn a penalty decision for Celtic at Tannadice against Dundee United on 17 October.
The SFA subsequently censured McDonald for his handling of the post-match administrative process, although McDonald has resisted calls, notably from Celtic, for him to resign.
Last week, Scottish National Party MP Peter Wishart called for all referees in Scotland to be forced to reveal their allegiance to a particular team, a suggestion backed by Celtic chairman John Reid.
As a result, some referees feel their integrity is being questioned excessively.
A statement from Ralph Topping, chairman of the SPL said “the prospect of games being threatened is hugely regrettable” and asked for “patience and restraint” while Regan conducts his review of the governing body in Scotland.
The SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster told the BBC he was disappointed that the referees had voted to go on strike and said fans would be the people hardest hit, but it was vital that the weekend's matches went ahead.
“It's for the SFA to deal with the referees and try to resolve the issue,” said Doncaster.
“If the situation cannot be resolved and the strike goes ahead, we will back the contingency plans.”
BBC Scotland has learned that Scotland's 14 category two referees have agreed not to step in to replace their colleagues by officiating SPL or Scottish Football League matches.
Peat said: “We will do everything we possibly can to broker a deal before the weekend because it's obviously important that officials are on duty. The climate of inference, innuendo and conspiracy theories must stop
SFA president George Peat
“We do not condone the strike but we must sympathise with the grievances of the referees.”
Celtic are known to welcome the strike, hoping it may lead to an investigation by Uefa into refereeing standards.
But Uefa described the fall-out as “a purely domestic matter” and have said they would not become involved.
Peat appeared to make a veiled criticism of Celtic in his statement, who have been at the heart of the controversy since the incident involving McDonald at Tannadice in October.
He said: “The behaviour of some people in recent weeks has tarnished the image of Scottish football. It has demeaned the game.
“The climate of inference, innuendo and conspiracy theories must stop.”
Former referee Kenny Clark told BBC Scotland on Monday morning that he believed Reid's comments last week – where he described McDonald's position as “completely untenable” – were the final straw.
“I suspect that is what put the tin lid on things, but it is a crisis that has been building up in recent years,” said Clark.
“There is a decreasing level of respect being shown to match officials right across society and that is fanned by the remarks emanating from some of the clubs.
“Essentially [the referees] want to ask that other clubs recognise that some pressure has to be brought to bear particularly upon Celtic, currently, to act in a more responsible manner, to stop fanning the flames of the fans' fury.
“The concern of the officials is that it is only a matter of time before a match official or a member of a match official's family is the subject of an attack.”
“It is aimed at every club throughout the country. Celtic have been the catalyst, I suspect, for this latest crisis, but every club is implicated to some extent.”
The SPL fixtures under threat this weekend are:
Saturday 27 November
Celtic v Inverness CT
Hamilton v St Mirren
Hibernian v St Johnstone
Kilmarnock v Aberdeen
Sunday 28 November
Dundee Utd v Rangers
Motherwell v Hearts