26 Nov 2010

Polish referees withdraw from Scottish football matches

Polish referees brought in to cover for striking Scottish officials pull out of weekend matches – another game is called off.

Referee Craig Thomson watches play between St. Johnstone and Celtic during their Scottish League Cup soccer match in Perth (Reuters)

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) told Channel 4 News that the First Division game between Greenock Morton and Falkirk has now been postponed – and that other games could be affected.

A spokeswoman said: “At the moment, we can’t talk about other matches. We’ve got to try to find officials to cover games they (Polish referees) cannot.”

Twelve Polish officials had been scheduled to take charge of matches in Scotland after Scottish referees announced they would strike on Saturday and Sunday, but they have now decided to stay at home. Officials from Luxembourg, Malta and Israel will travel to Scotland. Two Portugese officials who were due to help have tonight returned home.

The SFA had expected that all six Scottish Premier League (SPL) matches would go ahead, along with the Alba Challenge Cup Final, three Scottish Cup third round replays and one Division One match.

Scottish matches due to take place this weekend

Scottish Premier League
Celtic v Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Hamilton v St Mirren
Hibernian v St Johnstone
Kilmarnock v Aberdeen
Dundee Utd v Rangers
Motherwell v Hearts

The Alba Challenge Cup Final
Queen of the South v Ross County

Scottish Cup third round replays

Threave Rovers v Stenhousemuir
Annan Athletic v Brechin City
Beith v Airdrie United

The SFA spokeswoman told Channel 4 News the SPL matches would be the last to be cancelled.

A Greenock Morton statement said: “Late yesterday afternoon, the Scottish Football League advised they had been allocated one set of match officials over and above those for the Challenge Cup Final, and as a result of a ballot, the officials were appointed to our match.

“With the SFL now not having access to these additional officials, our game has been cancelled.”

A Polish FA spokesman told STV: “We will not be sending our referees to Scotland tomorrow because they are needed for our domestic games.

“We did confirm to the SFA yesterday that we would be sending a team of 12 officials, but that is no longer the case.”

Scottish referees say they have been intimidated by clubs and are calling on the Scottish FA to taken action to protect them.

The Scottish FA said it had promised “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”.

It would also institute a “ban on all all club officials commenting on referees in the build-up to matches and in the immediate aftermath”.

But the referees have refused to call off their strike.

The row started in October, when there was a dispute over a penalty decision during a Celtic game against Dundee United.

The Scottish FA censured referee Dougie McDonald, who has refused calls from Celtic to resign.

Only one Division One match – Greenock Morton v Falkirk – had been due to go ahead after lots were drawn.

Ten matches in Divisions One, Two and Three have now been cancelled.