Foreign refs to help SPL go ahead
ALL Scottish Premier League matches will go ahead as planned this weekend -- despite the referees' strike -- after the Scottish FA reached agreement with overseas federations to supply stand-ins, although it remains unclear which country the officials will come from.
After failing to avert a walkout by officials, who are protesting against criticism by clubs and managers of their recent performances, the SFA said it has found personnel to officiate at the six top-flight games.
The SFA did not reveal which countries would be providing the referees. Officials from Iceland, Norway, Wales and Sweden have already indicated they would not be taking charge of matches, but last night there were reports that the football federations of Israel, Malta, Poland and Portugal had all offered to help out.
It is believed that the cost of bringing in officials to cover the 11 matches that will go ahead will be around £30,000. However, a blank weekend, with the loss of two televised games, Dundee United versus Rangers and Motherwell's home match against Hearts, could have cost the SFA more than £200,000.
Scottish officials were hoping to secure referees for all of their matches but that proved impossible. Only one Division One game, Morton versus Falkirk, has survived the industrial action and all other lower league fixtures postponed.
Ross County's match against Queen of the South in the Alba Challenge Cup, a competition for lower-league sides, will take place as scheduled on Sunday. Three Scottish Cup replays also survived.
Category 1 referees in Scotland said yesterday they were standing by their decision to strike, despite the SFA offering a range of conciliatory measures. They included stricter sanctions on players and club officials who abuse referees as well as a ban on officials commenting on referees in the build-up to, and immediately after, matches.