Refs refuse to back down over strike threat
The Scottish Football Association will press ahead with plans to bring in foreign referees after category one officials refused to back down over strike action.
The SFA offered to bring in a range of proposals to appease referees including banning all club officials from commenting on referees before and immediately after matches.
But the SFA have announced that referees told them there would be no suspension of this weekend's industrial action.
A statement from the governing body this morning read: "The Scottish FA yesterday stood shoulder to shoulder with both the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League in offering representatives of the category one referees unequivocal and tangible support in an attempt to avert the planned withdrawal of labour scheduled for this coming weekend.
"This included the promise of tougher and more immediate sanctions on players and club officials who abuse referees and match officials, and especially those who challenge their integrity and honesty.
"These new guidelines also incorporated a ban on all club officials commenting on referees in the build-up to matches and in the immediate aftermath.
"These measures received the full backing of the Scottish FA president and the chief executive.
"Regrettably, at midnight last night, the Scottish FA were informed that following a further meeting of category one referees there would be no change of heart in relation to the strike and no suspension of action while the Scottish FA implements the measures proposed.
"Therefore, the weekend of action will proceed as planned and the Scottish FA will implement, where possible, a contingency plan to allow some fixtures to take place as planned this weekend, using officials from other international associations."
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan made another plea to referees to reconsider their decision but the governing body had previously set a deadline of noon today before they followed through with attempts to secure alternative match officials.
However, the pledge to ensure some senior Scottish football is played this weekend was less than comprehensive and Regan warned about the implications of the referees` actions.
"This is a very sad day for Scottish football," the SFA boss said.
"After further positive talks yesterday, and having received the backing of both the SPL and the SFL, I felt that we had shown our commitment to the refereeing fraternity and that they had recognised that substantial progress had been made.
"If this withdrawal of labour goes ahead it will be the fans, clubs, sponsors and media partners who will suffer and that cannot be good for the game in this country.
"I would urge the category one referees to reconsider their decision and, having benefited from the wave of sympathy for their current situation, plus the offer of affirmative action, realise the potential impact of their actions."
At least some of the 20 senior matches scheduled for this weekend look certain to be postponed.
Six Clydesdale Bank Premier League games, 10 Scottish Football League matches, the ALBA Challenge Cup final and three Scottish Cup fourth-round replays are all now in doubt.
Both leagues expressed strong disappointment at the referees' failure to reach an amicable solution.
SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster, who was angry with the way officials acted after failing to raise any concerns with his organisation, said: "It is deeply regrettable that Scottish match officials will not be taking charge of Clydesdale Bank Premier League games this weekend.
"The SPL is sympathetic towards referees and the criticism they have received in recent weeks but the way to address concerns is through dialogue, not to walk away from the situation."
SFL chief executive David Longmuir added: "The SFL is extremely disappointed that despite our efforts nothing could be done to avert the course of action about to be taken by our referee colleagues this weekend.
"Throughout the last few days we have tried to find a solution for both the short and long term which would have reinforced our existing support and admiration for all Scottish referees.
"Our commitment to that is unchanged. However, as a result of the action planned for this weekend, many of our clubs and supporters will feel let down."
The SFA were quietly confident of securing enough referees earlier in the week but their options continue to diminish.
The Dutch FA had expressed willingness to send officials on Tuesday but, like many other associations, they also appear to have performed a swift U-turn.
Gijs de Jong, the KNVB`s competition manager, told media in Holland: "When we heard there were death threats, we pulled out."
Approaches have also been rejected in Iceland and Norway, while Irish, Welsh, Estonian and Swedish officials have indicated that they would be unwilling to help out.
Meanwhile, Celtic manager Neil Lennon, who faces two SFA charges over his criticism of match officials plus a dugout ban, cancelled a scheduled media conference today amid the uncertainty surrounding the weekend`s fixtures.