Foreign officials to take charge of Scottish games

LONDON - Scottish league matches threatened by the referees' strike over abuse from players and managers will go ahead after the Scottish Football Association (SFA) secured the services of foreign officials on Thursday.

"The Scottish FA can confirm that agreement has been reached with several European Associations to ensure matches in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and the Alba Cup final will be covered this weekend," read a statement on the SFA website.

The mood was very different from that earlier in the day with SFA chief executive Stewart Regan calling the referees' decision to boycott the weekend's matches "a very sad day for Scottish football.

"After further positive talks yesterday, and having received the backing of both the SPL and the SFL, I felt that we had shown our commitment to the refereeing fraternity and that they had recognised that substantial progress had been made," he added.

The SFA had set a deadline of midnight on Wednesday for a resolution to the strike threat but were informed by the referees that they were not backing down.

"If this withdrawal of labour goes ahead it will be the fans, clubs, sponsors and media partners who will suffer and that cannot be good for the game in this country," said Regan.

"I would urge the Category 1 referees to reconsider their decision and, having benefited from the wave of sympathy for their current situation, plus the offer of affirmative action, realise the potential impact of their actions."

Category 1 officials handle matches in the top-level Scottish Premier League (SPL).

The catalyst for the strike was the reaction to referee Dougie McDonald admitting to misleading Celtic manager Neil Lennon about how he and his assistant Steven Craven came to overturn a penalty decision for the Glasgow club against Dundee United last month.