Scottish football referee strike
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The Scottish football referee strike refers to the unprecedented withdrawal of services by top level referees in Scottish football, following a dispute between the Scottish Senior Football Referees' Association and the Scottish Football Association. It affected 20 matches scheduled for the weekend of 27/28 November 2010 in the Scottish Premier League, the Scottish Football League, the Scottish Cup, as well as the 2010 Scottish Challenge Cup Final. When combined with significant weather disruption, the effect of the strike was that only four games went ahead, all in the SPL on 27 November, using replacement referees drawn from Israel, Luxembourg and Malta. It was the first time since 1905 that a domestic Scottish match had been refereed by someone from outside of Scotland.
The background to the dispute centres on the referee's perceptions that the SFA were not doing enough to protect them from undue criticism and questions over their integrity from football clubs, leading to increasing fears for their personal safety as controversial decisions were debated by the media and fans. After referee Dougie McDonald was found to have lied to his supervisor and Celtic manager Neil Lennon after a game on 17 October 2010, the ensuing controversy and debate led to referees voting to strike on 21 November in an attempt to achieve substantial changes in the game. Immediately after the strike, McDonald opted for early retirement, to allow the ongoing dispute to focus on the issues at hand.
As a commercially separate entity, the referees for the SPL are provided under contract from the SFA.〔 Until the 2010 dispute, there had never been a referees strike before in Scottish football.〔 Scottish referees are not fully professional, and instead are paid on a match fee basis, currently set at £800 and equating to a maximum expected income of £10,000 a year according to ex-referee Stuart Dougal.〔〔
In 2008, a strike over match fees threatening the start of the 2008–09 season was averted when the Scottish Senior Referees' Association and the SPL agreed to benchmark SPL referees pay to that of other European leagues. At the time it was acknowledged that the dispute was not only related to pay parity, but also about questions over their authority, with Jim Traynor commenting that referees saw a "need to be protected from chairman and managers who question their honesty and integrity".〔
In December 2008, after several SPL managers were rebuked by the SPL and SFA for critical comments about referees, all SPL managers signed an agreement to stop discussing refereeing decisions after matches. According to Rangers manager Walter Smith, the agreement was a "show of intent from managers that there is an acceptance that there are too many headlines being grabbed by the fact that we may be a little critical of referees at times", while the then Celtic manager Gordon Strachan stated "we think we should take the pressure off referees a bit", and "Whether it works or not, I don't know, but it's worth a try".〔 By the time of the 2010 strike, that experiment was described by BBC Scotland as having been short-lived, and by ''The Scotsman'' as having been gradually undermined.〔〔
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