Maltese referees to control matches in Scotland

Two Maltese referees and two assistant referees will be travelling to Scotland to take charge of games this weekend. Other referees to control Scottish matches this weekend are coming from Luxembourg, Israel and Portugal.

The Maltese officials are referees Marco Borg and Chris Lautier, accompanied by two assistant referees – Philip Agius and Joe Camilleri. Lautier will be controlling the Scottish FA Cup clash between Beith and Airdrie United on Saturday. Marco Borg, on the other hand, will be controlling the Alba Challenge Cup final between Queen of the South and Ross County and will act as fourth official in the Scottish Premier League match Kilmarnock vs Aberdeen which will be controlled by a referee from Israel. Lautier will also be the fourth official in the Alba Challenge Cup final.

Category One referees in Scotland decided to go on strike this weekend in response to recent reports and comments criticising performance and standards, and to highlight the fears they have over their safety.

Match officials have been in the spotlight this season over a number of decisions, particularly an incident at Tannadice last month in which referee Dougie McDonald reversed a penalty decision in a match between Dundee United and Celtic. Though the Scottish Football Association said after an investigation that McDonald had made the right call, the referee was criticised after admitting to lying about the circumstances post-match.

Celtic wrote to the SFA complaining about that decision and also said they were concerned with recent decisions against their team. Club chairman John Reid added fuel to the fire last week when he said that McDonald should have been sacked and said action had to be taken after “stories of lies, conspiracies and cover-ups” in the Scottish game.

MP Pete Wishart called last week for referees to declare their club allegiances in order to increase transparency in the decision making process and to remove officials from officiating games involving their favoured teams. Celtic chairman Reid said there was reason to consider Wishart’s proposal.

Referees were thought to be unhappy with the continued criticism and with a mood that they feel could increase the risk of violence against them and their families. They were also upset by a newspaper report that 80 per cent of officials had failed an exam on the rules of the game, stating that in fact the test was a routine quiz conducted as part of ongoing training.

A Scottish Premier League statement said: “All six Clydesdale Bank Premier League fixtures across Saturday and Sunday will be played as scheduled despite confirmation from the Scottish FA that the weekend of strike action by Scottish Category 1 referees will go ahead.”

The fixtures appeared to be in doubt this morning when the Polish FA retracted on their offer to send match officials to cover the absence of the striking category one officials.

SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster has clarified how the association have managed to find a way round the strike action which threatened to wipe out this weekend’s action.

“The Scottish FA has acted quickly to put contingency plans in place,” he said. “Fifa listed or Category 1 match officials from overseas will take charge of all Clydesdale Bank Premier League games this weekend. The SPL fully supports these plans.”

“It is deeply regrettable that Scottish match officials will not be taking charge of Clydesdale Bank Premier League games.”

“The SPL is sympathetic towards referees and the criticism they have received in recent weeks but the way to address concerns is through dialogue, not to walk away from the situation.”

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