Hearts boss Craig Levein ask why all top Scots refs are from Glasgow and Lanarkshire

Bringing in foreign referees to preside over Scottish matches is not the solution, according to Craig Levein.

Referee John Beaton about to book Hearts' Steven Naismith. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Referee John Beaton about to book Hearts' Steven Naismith. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

The Hearts boss does advocate casting the net wider in a bid to quell the rage over refereeing standards but says that simply means looking beyond Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

Surprised by reports suggesting that the SFA had agreed to consider importing foreign referees to combat the current crisis, which was exacerbated by more contentious decisions during Rangers’ Scottish Cup defeat of Kilmarnock on Wednesday, the Tynecastle manager, who has been championing the introduction of VAR, said that the idea of bringing in outsiders had 
never been raised at the latest get-together, on Monday.

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“I’m amazed that appeared in the paper because it was never discussed. So, I wonder how that managed to get into the newspaper. Did someone ask a journalist to do that? But what is more significant for me is that we try to beef up the numbers and improve the 
referees in Scotland.

“I spoke at length at the meeting about anomalies. When you look at the referees, they have 12 associations but seven Fifa’s refs, five from Glasgow and two from Lanarkshire. The Fifa refs get all the big games, they get the Old Firm games and that means they live in the same areas as those clubs’ supporters.

“So rather than get a foreign ref, if we have a more healthy geographical spread of category one and Fifa refs then we could have an Aberdeen or Fife or an Edinburgh ref and then when they go home after a game, they maybe have Aberdeen supporters in their street or a couple of Dundee supporters and one or two Old Firm supporters but they are removed from the huge pressure and the kind of thing that happened to John Beaton.

“At the moment we can’t do that because we don’t have Fifa referees from any associations other than the two I’ve mentioned. It is fascinating.”

Querying why there should be such a glaring reliance on two of the associations, he was unhappy with the explanation.

“I didn’t really get an answer other than the fact that it is just a trend, which I don’t believe, especially if you look at one of the most significant statistics I found. When you look at the associations, the second biggest is Edinburgh and have a guess how many times in 145 years an Edinburgh ref has done the Scottish Cup final. Three times! Three times in 145 years! My point is, rather than look at foreign refs, why don’t we have top refs from all over the country?”

He said that while managers, players and media need to behave responsibly when scrutinising officials’ performances, those who handle the appointments also need to reassess how matches are divvied up.

“We have had John Beaton five times already this season. We have 31 category one refs in Scotland… 31… yet we have had John Beaton five times. That can’t be healthy. The spread needs to be much wider but if only two associations are supplying the seven Fifa refs then there are going to be problems. I think it would be fair on everybody to look into that.”

Agreeing that refereeing standards may have dipped this term, he saw no value in simply slinging mud. Instead he believes everyone should be working to help match officials make the right calls.

“It’s like football teams. You have good seasons and bad seasons and I think it’s really, really difficult [for refs] under the current system where they get absolutely no help, from managers, the media or whoever does the appointments. I would hope that everybody recognises that VAR is absolutely the one thing that has been proven to help referees.

“You can talk about foreign refs as much as you want but they’re human and they’re going to make mistakes. You’d get one in for an Old Firm game and everybody would be investigating his great, great, great grandfather! Make one mistake and his whole history is dragged up.”

But Levein believes progress is being made in the quest to introduce the technology. “Things are moving along, in each of the three meetings I’ve been involved in. But I think we need to get moving on it as quickly as possible. The refs also need to get using it to enable them to go to Euro finals and World Cups. Because if they haven’t been trained on it, they’re not going!”