The Scottish Football Association last night confirmed it had drafted contingency plans to bring in match officials from outside the country amid a planned strike by referees in Scotland. The SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, expressed his support for under-fire referees and vowed to continue dialogue with their representatives to avert this weekend's action.
But he added: "While we remain hopeful that the situation can be resolved to everyone's satisfaction, we have no option but to draw up contingency plans, which will involve sourcing match officials in other countries."
The Scottish Senior Referees Association has informed the governing body of its intention to refuse appointments this weekend after a unanimous vote at its monthly meeting on Sunday. Referees acted amid fears one of their number would come under physical attack after some reported being threatened at home, in the street and in the workplace.
Regan said: "I have every sympathy for the refereeing fraternity at this time and completely understand why incessant scrutiny, criticism and questioning of their integrity has brought them to the brink of a withdrawal of labour. I cannot, however, condone what will amount to strike action and believe we must now engage in positive dialogue to avert the possibility that we will have no football this weekend. This scenario is not helpful to the image or reputation of the game."
The Scottish Premier League chief executive, Neil Doncaster, backed the SFA's contingency plans. There have been suggestions the SFA could look to the Republic of Ireland as the Airtricity League is in its close season. The Football Association of Ireland would not confirm whether it had already been approached.