The state of refereeing in Scotland


This week my good friends at Scotzine have asked me to review the ‘state’ of refereeing in our country. At times it’s tough to review the standards in our game. One week we can have two or three poor decisions across the leagues and the standards are poor and the next week a referee can have a great match and the standards are great!

The refereeing fraternity in our country is soon to undergo a major overhaul. Some two years ago the Scottish FA decided to operate in regions (Central , North etc) whilst this worked for developing grassroots football etc I don’t think it will help our officials when they join the regions in the coming months. At present our officials whether they are refereeing in the local parks, juniors or SPFL are all part of a local association and are encouraged to attend monthly meetings to discuss match footage to increase consistency. Weekly fitness training is also organised by these associations. Once in regions weekly training will be no more and meetings will move from monthly to quarterly. The vision behind this move from local to regional is that the referees will be apart of a region all working together. Sadly I firmly believe referees need to be separate from this. There are countless stories of referees in grassroots having an horrendous day at the office and thinking of hanging up the whistle only to go to training midweek to receive support and guidance from the guys at the top of the game.

In my own opinion the refereeing fraternity was at a loss when Hugh Dallas was removed from position as head of referee development. Here was a guy at the helm of refereeing who had been 4th official at the World Cup final in 2002 , had every national cup final medal in locker as well as countless old firm matches. At the helm now is John Fleming. A former category 1 journey man. In Fleming’s defence he quickly realised his own potential and hired the services of Steven McLean and Craig Thompson (Category One & FIFA referees) to look after the development of our up & coming referees.

The standard of refereeing in our country is good. At the top of the game we have the much maligned Willie Collum. A referee who seems to be despised by many fans in Scotland but loved by the powers that be at Uefa. Collum is never too far from ‘controversy’, why? The answer for me is simple. He’s not afraid to make the big calls when he needs to. Craig Thompson has gone from the high of taken charge of the under 20 World Cup final to not being selected for the World Cup in Brazil. The big question remains for Fleming. Now Thompson is no longer precession in terms of FIFA, should his FIFA badge be removed? This is what happened to Euan Norris and Alan Muir to name a few. It’s my own personal opinion that he will retain his badge as the Scottish FA seem to allow him more leeway.

If you could change anything in our profession at this moment in time it would be the lack of uniformity with our assistants. You can go to any match in the country and both assistants will be doing things completing different. In England the assistants are not any better just they “look the part.”

If you fancy take up the whistle or want to broaden your knowledge of the laws of the game then why not contact the Scottish FA to find a local class near you.


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