Referees refuse to break picket line in Scotland
The Scottish Football Association's plans to recruit foreign referees to replace their striking Scottish colleagues suffered a blow today when Norwegian and Icelandic officials refused to break the picket line.
After grade one referees voted on Sunday to withdraw their labour due to fears about safety amid an increasing climate of criticism, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan began scouring Europe for replacements, with Iceland, Ireland and the Scandinavian countries among his targets.
However, Rune Pedersen, head of referees for the Norwegian FA, told Press Association Sport that officials in Norway would not be making themselves available this weekend.
"We have informed the SFA that we are unable to supply them with referees," he said. "There are three main reasons why.
"First of all, there are 12 top-class referees and 25 assistants who are down to go to Denmark for a seminar at the weekend.
"Secondly, there are 12 of our referees preparing for Europa League games next week.
"But referees are also worried about taking charge of matches in Scotland when their colleagues in Scotland are in dispute with their FA.
"I have discussed it with them and they have said they would not approve of referees coming to Norway if they had been in conflict with the Norwegian FA."
Sigurdur Thorleifsson, head of the referees' union in Iceland, told Press Association Sport this morning that Icelandic referees would be "ready if they want us to help out Scottish football."
However, by this afternoon, a U-turn had been performed after discussion with Scottish referees.
"It is not so much a change of heart, it's just that we did not know what it was all about," Thorleifsson said.
"We got a phone call from our FA saying they had received an invitation from Scotland and that they would be glad to send our referees to Scotland.
"At that time we didn't know what the story was about but we did some research on it and I heard from Scottish colleagues who told us what it it was all about.
"They told us about their lives being threatened, the abuse they receive and the phone calls to their homes so there was no question of us going, we would stand by our colleagues in Scotland.
"Icelandic referees get abuse, but nothing like what we have been told happens in Scotland."
Press Association Sport also understands that while official contact has not yet been made with the Football Association of Ireland, there have been informal and preliminary discussions.
However, it is believed that Irish referees, for the same reason as their Norwegian and Icelandic colleagues, would not be receptive to an approach from the SFA.
Regan will continue talks with the Scottish referees tonight in a bid to resolve the problem.