SPL fixtures in doubt after Portuguese U-turn

Further chaos struck Scotland's fixture list last night after Portuguese referees brought in to cover for striking Scottish officials returned home. The Portuguese FA confirmed two referees had set off yesterday morning but they are understood to have left Scotland soon after arriving.

In another development last night, it was reported that Hugh Dallas had resigned from his position as the Scottish Football Association's head of referee development. The Catholic Church on Wednesday called for the SFA to sack Dallas if it was proved he passed on a "tasteless message" relating to the Pope's visit to Scotland in September.

Portuguese referees had been due to take charge of Hibernian's home game against St Johnstone today and tomorrow's contest between Motherwell and Hearts. However, SFA officials are continuing to work on the assumption that all six SPL matches will go ahead.

Despite the latest shock development, which followed a U-turn by the Polish authorities earlier in the day, the SFA has given assurances to SPL clubs that their games will go ahead. Two Portuguese officials arrived at Glasgow Airport but went straight back through to the departure lounge.

Officials in the SFA's referee administration department were last night working to avoid even more disruption to the weekend's fixtures after three more were postponed earlier in the day.

The last remaining Scottish Football League fixture, the first division game between Morton and Falkirk, was called off after Poland's football authorities decided not to send three referees and nine assistants. Two Scottish Cup third-round replays were also called off to take the number of postponed games to 12 following the strike by Scotland's category one referees, who are protesting against a backlash by fans and perceived attacks on their integrity. Tomorrow's Challenge Cup final between Ross County and Queen of the South is not under threat.

Alain Hamer, of Luxembourg, is due to referee both Old Firm teams. Hamer, who sent off Gary Caldwell during Scotland's 4-0 defeat by Norway last year, will take charge of Celtic's game against Inverness today. He will then cover Rangers' trip to Dundee United tomorrow.

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