SFA seeks to resolve referee row as foreign officials refuse to cover

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The Independent Football

The Scottish Football Association was locked in talks with referees' representatives yesterday in a bid to persuade the officials to call off their proposed strike. Grade one referees voted on Sunday to withdraw their labour, bringing this weekend's scheduled fixtures into doubt.

Tuesday night's discussions between the SFA and the referees were described as "constructive" and carried on yesterday.

According to the Press Association all the referees were being contacted last night to be asked their thoughts on the outcomes of the discussions. The SFA has set a deadline for midday for a resolution before they turn elsewhere for replacement referees.

However, it is not clear exactly where those officials will come from after referees from Iceland, Norway and Wales indicated they would not be willing to effectively breach a strike.

Germund Nilsson, secretary of the referees' committee at the Swedish FA, said its members would also be unlikely to heed a call. He said: "I have spoken with the chairman of the referees' committee but we have not had any contact yet from the SFA. I understand that they have been in touch with referees in Norway and Iceland and they have said no and I don't think the Swedish referees would go either.

"It is too short a time gap between now and the weekend. Also, we have two sets of officials in the Europa League next week and I think they would be concentrating on that."

Celtic manager Neil Lennon admits he may have gone too far with his touchline behaviour this season. The Irishman has been criticised for his management style which, when it became too passionate in the defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle earlier in the month, saw him sent to the stand by referee Craig Thomson.

Lennon is appealing against the two-match dugout ban and the separate excessive misconduct conduct charge brought by the Scottish Football Association following his touchline rant with the fourth official when a penalty claim was turned down.

However, the former Celtic captain's stinging criticism of match officials this season is thought to be just one reason why Scotland's grade one referees voted on Sunday to withdraw their labour next weekend in a move which is threatening 20 fixtures.

Speaking on a BBC ALBA programme which will be shown tonight, Lennon pleads guilty to sometimes getting too carried away although he claims his behaviour is often exaggerated. He said: "It's a natural instinct and I think sometimes people go over the top about it and exaggerate my behaviour – they only show snippets of me arguing with officials every now and again. It would be folly for me to say that I'm not doing anything wrong because obviously there is a line you can't cross and I may have crossed it once or twice. I think in the main I want that passion to be there not just from me but from the staff and the players as well but in a controlled way."

Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty missed last night's Champions League clash with Manchester United at Ibrox after breaking a bone in his hand in a freak accident yesterday morning.

Walter Smith confirmed that the Northern Ireland international will require an operation and could be out of action for four weeks.