SPL matches go ahead despite foreign refs' withdrawal
Portuguese referee Cosme Machado left Glasgow Airport shortly after arriving
The weekend Scottish Premier League programme will go ahead as planned, despite Scottish referees withdrawing their labour and heavy snow.
There were doubts when officials from Portugal returned home and Polish replacements did not travel.
However, the postponement of Beith's Scottish Cup replay with Airdrie, due to a frozen pitch, has freed up a set of match officials.
Maltese ref Christian Lautier will now oversee Hibernian v St Johnstone.
Two of the four Portuguese officials who were due to take charge at Easter Road and at Sunday's match between Motherwell and Hearts left Glasgow Airport for home on Friday night soon after touching down.
The Maltese officials were set to oversee Sunday's ALBA Challenge Cup final but that match was postponed at lunchtime on Saturday because of the wintry weather.
The Scottish Football League decided to call off the ALBA Challenge Cup final because of the severe weather warnings for Saturday night and Sunday, citing concerns for fans' safety as they made their way to McDiarmid Park.
Israeli officials are in charge at Hamilton v St Mirren and Kilmarnock v Aberdeen on Saturday and 24 hours later Meir Levy will referee Motherwell v Hearts and his countryman Eli Hacmon will be the fourth official.
A Motherwell spokesman said: "The club have been given assurances by the SFA that the game will still go ahead.
"They are working furiously to ensure that no game will come under threat."
Scottish referees are unhappy that their integrity is being continually questioned and, despite assurances from the SFA that it would take a firm line with critical clubs, the officials have refused to call off their strike.
The SFA had contacted football authorities around Europe to recruit referees and their assistants.
This was not an industrial relations dispute that could be speedily negotiated away to avert 'action'
Statement from Scotland's category one referees
Dutch referees had followed those in Iceland and Norway in rejecting the SFA's approach, with Irish, Welsh, Estonian and Swedish officials having indicated that they too would be unwilling to provide cover.
But, by Friday morning, it looked like the full SPL card, one in Division One, three Scottish Cup replays and the ALBA Challenge Cup final would go ahead, weather permitting.
However, the withdrawal of the Poles resulted in the postponement of the Morton versus Falkirk match, which had been chosen to go ahead by drawing lots, wiping out all 10 matches in the Scottish Football League.
The Scottish Cup replay between Beith and Airdrie United was called off on Saturday morning due to snow, to free up the Maltese officials.
The other third round replays between Annan and Brechin and Threave Rovers and Stenhousemuir were postponed on Friday, although Annan's Galabank pitch had failed a pitch inspection in any case.
Poland's FA told BBC Scotland their refs were now required in their homeland, but no reasons have yet emerged about why the Portuguese did such a quick about-turn.
Lennon hopes for clarity from strike
Israel's officials remain despite their referees' union chief, Yariv Teper, admitting that he did not know the reasons for the SFA request.
The Luxembourg FA also confirmed that it had not been told the reasons for the strike, although officials had followed the story on the internet.
Referee Alain Hamer and assistants Francois Mangen and Christian Holtgen, the Luxembourg officials who earlier this week took charge of the Champions League match between Benfica and Hapoel Tel Aviv, will handle both games involving the Old Firm this weekend.
Celtic host Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday, while Rangers are away to Dundee United on Sunday.
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan had said on Thursday: "The referees who have offered their services will either be Fifa-approved or will have achieved category one status in their respective countries.
"There will be costs involved with flights, hotels and so on, but the priority has been about fulfilling the fixtures for the benefit of fans, the media and sponsors and I'm delighted that I have been able to fulfil so many matches this week.
"I repeat it is deeply sad that we have arrived at this situation. But, as I have stated previously, it is incumbent on the Scottish FA to honour our obligations to our league partners."
Scotland's category one referees had wanted the governing body to seek written assurances from all 42 senior club chairmen that the integrity of match officials was not being questioned.
While the SFA decided against writing to individual clubs, it promised "tougher and more immediate sanctions on players and club officials who abuse referees and match officials - and especially those who challenge their integrity and honesty".
"These new guidelines also incorporated a ban on all club officials commenting on referees in the build-up to matches and in the immediate aftermath," stated the SFA.
Smith wants refs to name critics
A statement on behalf of the category one referees described talks as "constructive" but stressed that the withdrawal of labour was not a "bargaining chip" designed to coax "quick fixes or deals".
"It was, instead, a genuine call for a moment of reflection by all who love the game in Scotland and a desire to see a real and fundamental reappraisal of football's and society's relationship with its referees," it stated.
"The group felt this was needed for the good of the game overall and made it clear to all on Monday that this was not an industrial relations dispute that could be speedily negotiated away to avert 'action'.
"The category one officials have welcomed the level of support received from fellow officials both at home and internationally, as well as that from others within the game and wider Scottish life.
"After this weekend, the referees will return to the field and will continue dialogue with the governing body to develop well-thought through and meaningful measures in an environment of mutual respect."
Meanwhile, three Scots will be involved in SPL action in the capacity of fourth officials. Stephen Allan will patrol the technical area at Celtic Park, Stuart Macaulay will be on duty at New Douglas Park and Andy Tait will be on the touchline at Tannadice.
All three are listed as category three specialist assistant referees with the SFA.
While sympathetic to the referees' feelings, the chief executives of the SPL and SFL expressed their disappointment at the referees' decision to strike.
Celtic have been the most vociferous in their criticism of officials, with chairman John Reid calling on referee Dougie McDonald to resign after giving a false account of his reasons for overturning a penalty he initially awarded to the Glasgow side.
Matches on this weekend in Scotland
Saturday, 27 November
Scottish Premier League
Celtic v Inverness CT: referee - Alain Hamer (Luxembourg), assistant referees - Francois Mangen and Christian Holtgen (both Luxembourg), fourth official - Stephen Allan (Scotland) Hamilton v St Mirren: referee - Meir Levy (Israel), assistant referees - Oren Bornstein and David Elia Biton (both Israel), fourth official - Stuart Macaulay (Scotland) Hibernian v St Johnstone: referee - Christian Lautier (Malta), assistant referees - Philip Agius and Joseph Camilleri (both Malta), fourth official - Andy Tait (Scotland) Kilmarnock v Aberdeen: referee - Eli Hacmon (Israel), assistant referee - Eyal Hatuca and Amihay-Yesoshhua Mozes (both Israel), fourth official - Marco Borg (Malta)
Sunday, 28 November
Scottish Premier League
Dundee Utd v Rangers: referee - Alain Hamer (Luxembourg), assistant referees - Francois Mangen and Christian Holtgen (both Luxembourg), fourth official - Andy Tait (Scotland)
Motherwell v Hearts: referee - Meir Levy (Israel), assistant referees - Luis Ramos and Inacio Pereira (both Portugal), fourth official - Eli Hacmon (Israel)
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