SPL games will go ahead with foreign referees

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The Independent Football

All Premier League matches in Scotland will proceed as planned this weekend despite the referees' strike after the Scottish Football Association reached agreement with overseas federations to supply stand-ins, although it remains unclear which country the officials will come from.

After failing to avert a walkout by the officials, who are protesting against clubs' and managers' criticism of their recent performances, the SFA said it has found personnel from outside Scotland to officiate at the six top-flight games. "The Scottish FA can confirm that agreement has been reached with several European national associations to ensure matches in the Premier League... will be covered this weekend," its official statement read.

The SFA did not reveal which countries would be providing the referees, and officials from Iceland, Norway, Wales and Sweden have already indicated they would not be taking charge of matches. The governing body held talks with foreign associations in the hope of securing referees for matches in Scotland's three other national divisions, but the Scottish Football League said that only one First Division game, Morton versus Falkirk, would survive the industrial action.

"We have had to prioritise what resources we have been allocated this weekend," a Scottish Football League statement read. "We allocated match officials to this match as a result of a drawing of lots, which we believe was the fairest and most open way to allocate these match officials."

Nine matches across the First, second and Third Divisions have had to be postponed. Ross County's match against Queen of the South in the Alba Challenge Cup, a competition for lower-league sides, will take place as scheduled on Sunday. Three Scottish Cup replays also survived.

Category One referees in Scotland said yesterday they were standing by their decision to strike, despite the SFA offering a range of conciliatory measures. They included stricter sanctions on players and club officials who abuse referees as well as a ban on officials commenting on referees in the build-up to, and immediately after, matches. The referees' union said the industrial action is not a "bargaining chip" aimed at soliciting "quick fixes or deals".

"The group appreciated the full impact this decision will have on fans this weekend and for that reason it was not taken lightly," a union statement said.

"However, it was believed to be necessary in the current climate and that it will hopefully put an end to the more extreme attacks on referees."