Scottish Referees and VAR. Is it time for dialogue on the elephant in the cave?

With the introduction of VAR to Scottish football our football media, exposure to the on line, audio and print world has been akin to living in Plato’s Cave where debate/discussion  concentrates on the shadows reflected on the wall by the light of a fire: (PLATO ON: The Allegory of the Cave – YouTube )

The shadows take the following shapes.</p?

  • Was it handball?
  • What is handball?
  • Was it a penalty?
  • Was it offside?
  • What are offside rules anyway?
  • Do referees know them?
  • Do they apply them with any degree of consistency?

All are of interest as they are scrutinised, dissected and disputed, but they all ignoring the biggest shadow of the biggest animal in the cave:-  that of the elephant called ” trust”.

In the context of Scottish football, ever since the game became professional, referees in Scotland have never been trusted because of the demographic peculiarities of Scotland, a peculiarity created as a by-product of historical events in Scotland and its near neighbours Ireland and England.

With such a diverse populace tribal distrust of the other is a fertile breeding ground to grow and take life, like unattended weeds choke a garden.

In the Plato’s Cave allegory the commentator suggests the way out of the cave is by philosophical education and if you watch the video, one description of his guidance  on such education is “dialogue.”

So what is dialogue?

“ Dialogue is a conversation on a common subject between two or more persons with differing views, the primary purpose of which is for each participant to learn from the other so that s/he can change and grow. This very definition of dialogue embodies the first commandment of dialogue.

If we approach another party to either defeat them or to learn about them so as to deal more effectively with her or him, or at best to negotiate with him or her. If we face each other at all in confrontation–sometimes more openly polemically, sometimes more subtly so, but always with the ultimate goal of defeating the other, because we are convinced that we alone have the absolute truth, we are indulging in debate and not dialogue.

But dialogue is not debate. In dialogue each party must listen to the other as openly and sympathetically as s/he can in an attempt to understand the other’s position as precisely and, as it were, as much from within, as possible. Such an attitude automatically includes the assumption that at any point we might find the other party’s position so persuasive that, if we would act with integrity, we would have to change, and change can be disturbing.

The parties must be prepared to come to the dialogue as persons ready to put aside their own needs and wants, at least for a time. They must be ready to listen, without judgement, to the thoughts and feelings as expressed by the other person in the exchange. The parties must be prepared to accept that reaching agreement may not be achieved, although that might occur, but dialogue will lead to both parties, through a better understanding of the others’ needs and wants, to being able to live amicably with their differences.”

How, then, can Scottish football supporters as key stakeholders in the game  via their own club supporter organisations and the likes of The Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA)? How can the clubs themselves effectively engage in a meaningful dialogue?

There are 10 “Commandments in the Original Dialogue Decalogue by Leonard Swidler that can be read at

but the following two are particularly apt in terms of acknowledging the presence of the particular elephant in our own Scottish football cave in order to drag it out and into the light?


SEVENTH COMMANDMENT: Dialogue can take place only between equals. Both must come to learn from each other. Therefore, if, for example, one party views the other as inferior, or if one party views the other as superior, there will be no dialogue. If authentic relationship dialogue is to occur between the parties, then both must come mainly to learn from each other; only then will it be “equal with equal,”. This rule also indicates that there can be no such thing as a one-way dialogue.


EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: Dialogue can take place only on the basis of mutual trust, which must be built.  A dialogue among persons can be built only on personal trust. Hence it is wise not to tackle the most difficult problems in the beginning, but rather to approach first those issues most likely to provide some common ground, thereby establishing the basis of trust. Then, gradually, as this personal trust deepens and expands, the more thorny matters can be undertaken. Thus, as in learning we move from the known to the unknown. So in dialogue we proceed from commonly held matters, which, given our mutual ignorance resulting from possibly years of misunderstanding and possibly hostility in the relationship, may take us quite some time to discover fully–to discuss matters of disagreement.

Philosophy/dialogue is all very well but what can it do to bring about the required level of trust?

The advice above is via small steps and one small step but with huge benefits would be the introduction of transparency to the VAR process. This could be done in the reasonable short term by making conversation between referees and VAR assistant audible to all.

It is a technical approach but with behaviour changing consequences because observed behaviour changes that of those being observed. It need not be live during a game but at very least released within half an hour of a match ending. It brings in transparency which is the forerunner to accountability and would be a game changer.

Longer term strategy for culture change to improve professionalism of referees, which the proposal by Sentinel Celts   Calling Out Scottish Referees – SENTINELCELTS sets out should be part of a longer terms strategy for changing the culture of the referee service with the ultimate aim of making refereeing a very rewarding professional career   and be fertile territory for dialogue between all stakeholders, not least referees themselves.

712 thoughts on “Scottish Referees and VAR. Is it time for dialogue on the elephant in the cave?”

  1. Albertz11
    30 April 2023 at 08.46
    ‘ ..Of course it’s fake..’
    I kind of suspected as much while wishing it were true!

  2. John Clark
    28th April 2023 at 23:22

    “The Herald’ knelt in obeisance at the feet of ‘representatives’ of ‘Rangers football Club’.
    Their subsequent re-instatement of and apology to Haggerty shows that their case against her was unfounded and ought not to have been pursued.!……….”

    “As, of course, was and is their persistent support and propagation of the lie that TRFC is the Rangers of 1872!……………..”

    “That the ‘The Herald’ continues to support the legally indefensible and egregious lie that TRFC is continuity Rangers of 1872 is an indication of a readiness to disregard truth in meek response to threat.””

    Same Herald who published this image 2nd image .

    Wonder if TheRangers took any action against the Herald for the image or simply got a journalist of a certain persuasion sacked for knowing and telling the truth. “Her work includes editing the best selling book Downfall: How Rangers FC Self-Destructed,”

  3. bigboab1916
    30th April 2023 at 22:23
    ‘..same Herald who published this image 2nd image …’
    Thank you for that post. I hadn’t seen that list before.
    And of course, it proves that the SMSM in their propagation of the myth of continuity RFC of 1872 are downright liars supporting a lying Football governance body!
    [As an aside, Mrs C and I were in Glasgow this afternoon honouring long-time friends on their 50th wedding anniversary. I got into conversation with one of the other guests, a retired lawyer.
    I put to him the following scenario:
    “The Prospectus of the Initial Public Offering of a would-be PLC clearly indicates that it will be the ‘holding company’ of a 140-year-old very, very successful football club.
    However, in fact and in law, and as shown in very small print on its website it is the holding company of a football club created in 2012!
    Has a ‘crime’ been committed?
    Should the NOMAD ever have allowed that apparently false Prospectus to be issued? Should that NOMAD be questioned by the Financial Conduct Authority?”
    Or does the passage of time make everything all right and acceptable?
    “Hmmn”, he said, lawyer-like, but intrigued and interested all the same.
    A wee lottery win to fund legal action against the perceived failure of the FCA to spot an allegedly false and untruthful Prospectus would come in handy.]

  4. A reminder from 2012 of just how important ‘Rangers’ were viewed by the SFA. Stewart Regan spoke to the media after the clubs voted against ‘newco Rangers’ entering the SPL, and before the SFL voted to accept them in tier four.


    “Without Rangers, there is social unrest and a big problem for Scottish society.

    “The club has a huge fan-base and to contemplate the situation where those fans don’t have a team to support, where those fans are effectively left without a game to follow, I just think that could lead to all sorts of issues, all sorts of problems for the game.

    “Tribalism in football is really important. It is part of the game. People follow their clubs with pride, it is passed down from generation to generation.

    “There are thousands of Rangers fans whose fathers and parents and grandfathers have been Rangers fans. You can’t contemplate a situation without that and if Rangers weren’t to exist that could have dire consequences.”

    “There is no alternative (to the First Division).

    “There is a lot of emotion around this because Rangers are a huge institution in Scottish football yet they are where they are.

    “Their fans have been hurt, they don’t know what’s happening.

    “But there isn’t an alternative to them in the First Division other than a long, slow, lingering death for the game here.”


    Edited to add: I came across the above while unsuccessfully searching for another quote from Regan when he said it was up to individuals to decide whether newco Rangers was a new club.

  5. Highlander
    2nd May 2023 at 09:04
    ‘..A reminder from 2012 of just how important ‘Rangers’ were viewed by the SFA. Stewart Regan spoke to the media after the clubs voted against ‘newco Rangers’ entering the SPL, and before the SFL voted to accept them in tier four.’
    A nice reminder, Highlander-and thank you for it-of Regan’s and the SFA’s cowardly abandonment of truth, honour, and sporting integrity in the face of threats. Honest to God, was there ever such a dereliction of duty?
    God knows which people in high civic office must have made it plain to him threateningly enough that he could not rely on the political and legal establishment to keep the hordes in order if the SFA had done its duty.
    Certainly, the running dog lackeys in the print SMSM made it plain that they would not countenance an insistence on maintaining the Integrity of the sport and have since continued to propagate an untruth as vile in its own disgusting little way as any lie uttered by any ex-Prime Minister of the UK. For the sake of a dead football club!
    For the BBC in Scotland to have joined the ranks of liars is unforgiveable. One wonders what lie they might next choose to support and propagate?

  6. From the Rolls of Court today:
    “LORD BRAID – S Alexander, Clerk
    Court 7 – Parliament House
    Thursday 4th May
    By Order
    between 9.00am and 10.00am
    CA74/22 Elite Sports Group Ltd v Rangers Football Club Ltd Burness Paull LLP Anderson Strathern LLP”
    Just a case-management hearing I think, so probably not worth the bother of attending.

  7. paddy malarkey
    2nd May 2023 at 18:24
    ‘…Another one bites the dust..’
    “My successor will inherit some fantastic people, working passionately to deliver on a clear strategic vision, underpinned by strong processes and modern, innovative methodology.”
    Are these the ‘ipsissima verba’, the very words, of Mulholland? I know not the man, and they might very well be.
    But, really, they reek of the insincerity of those who work in PR and ‘advertising’, trying to blind people with high-falutin’ language and expressions.
    I’m not having a particular go at RIFC plc/TRFC in saying that.
    Companies are all at it.
    What exactly is the meaning of ” underpinned by strong processes and modern, innovative methodology”?
    The crap that we have to put up with in these PR statements ( universally) is quite incredible.
    Especially when the crap tries to cover the fact that 8 years of the ‘academy’ brought in sales of only £15 m.
    8 into 15 goes..whit? once and 7 over. Ok, make it 2M. Costs of the academy over that 8 years?
    I leave you to do the maths!
    Seriously, though, Annual Report verbiage from any PLC or football club is never going to hide unpleasant fiscal fact.
    SDM tried to hide the unpleasant facts about the now dead Rangers’ financial situation.
    And look what happened there!

  8. paddy malarkey
    3rd May 2023 at 13:17
    ‘..And another …’
    ” Andrew Dickson £33,000 . Head of football administration since 2003. Previously financial controller at Ibrox.” [DR list of EBT recipients]
    Some ‘financial controller’ Dickson turned out to be, eh?
    He either did not have the savvy to see the use of EBTs to pay players as the tax dodge it was or the moral courage to walk away from SDM.
    Either way, he deserves in my opinion to be remembered as a hugely contributing figure in the death of RFC of 1872 by continuing to serve under SDM.

  9. From the DR, that bastion of fearless journalism, on 1st January 2015.
    “The SPFL chief executive has attempted to end the argument that has raged ever since the insolvency event of 2012.
    He was emphatic in a Q&A session done with the BBC.
    Doncaster said: “In terms of the question about old club, new club, that was settled very much by the Lord Nimmo Smith commission that was put together by the SPL to look at EBT payments at that time.
    “The decision, very clearly from the commission, was that the club is the same, the club continues, albeit it is owned by a new company, but the club is the same.
    “It’s the same club, absolutely.
    “The member club is the entity that participates in our league and we have 42 member clubs.
    “Those clubs may be owned by a company, sometimes it’s a Private Limited Company, sometimes it’s a PLC, but ultimately, the company is a legal entity in its own right, which owns a member club that participates in the league.

    “It was put to bed by the Lord Nimmo Smith commission some while ago – it’s the same club.”
    In 2012 Doncaster was the CEO of the SPL.
    He above all knew that it was under the Articles of Association of the SPL that the shareholder known as Rangers Football Club plc HAD to surrender its share in the SPL Ltd.
    He knew that having had to surrender its share in the SPL meant that Rangers Football Club plc , not some other ‘company’ that owned Rangers Football Club plc, ceased, under the Articles of Association of the SFA, to be entitled to participate in Scottish Professional football.
    It was Rangers Football Club plc, not ‘Wavetower’ or ‘Liberty capital’ that was Liquidated, but the football club that both my grandfathers called Rangers football Club founded by the 4 young men of Glasgow Green and went ignominiously into Liquidation as RFC 2012 plc in 2012!
    Honest to God.
    And to invoke the opinion of anyone who could think that having more money to spend on skilled football players does not give one an advantage is beyond stupidity, and borders on infantile lying.
    And whatever BBC wretch was asking the questions should be recognised as having not been very good at asking questions!

  10. Regarding the reshuffle at Ibrox, does anyone here know the strategy behind it?
    I doubt they’ve been issuing shares over the last few years,just to keep the lights on , then to have an ‘event’ which would see them forfeit a European place. They really do need Euro money.
    As players income is the main expenditure will we see new recruits, to a similar standard when R2ngers started their journey in 2012.
    Just curious.

  11. An email today informs me that
    “…This year, ICIJ is marking World Press Freedom Day by welcoming the newest cohort of ICIJ members — 20 top journalists have been invited to join our network, hailing from 18 countries (including four countries where we’ve never had members before) and bringing decades of expertise between them.
    ..ICIJ’s network now numbers more than 290 journalists in 105 countries. Together, we hope we can push back, and continue to use our journalism to hold the world’s most powerful people and institutions accountable.”
    As far as I can make out not one of the 290 is based in Scotland!
    I would dearly wish that some financial journalist would dig into the launching of RIFC plc and why TRFC Ltd is not being chased up as being liable for the debts it must owe if it is legally RFC of 1872?
    I would think there may be a bigger story there than the mere collapse of a failed football club?

  12. Fromtoday’s Rollsof Court

    “LORD RICHARDSON – D Allen/N Marchant, Clerks
    Court 11 – Parliament House
    Wednesday 10th May
    Starred Motion
    between 9:00am and 10:00am
    COS/CA104-22 Atp Investments Ltd v Rangers International Football Club Plc

    COS/CA105-22 Anstalt v Rangers International Football Club Plc

    These Nominee companies apparently hold about 8 500 000 shares (about 1.9% of the total) in total for a number of individual small shareholders who don’t want to be identified.

  13. Getting close to loss of linkage now , in some places . In my humble opinion , Michael Beale was only employed because he was a part of Stevie G’s team , and punted by Scottish mainstream media as being part of a continuum . Once the Rats and certain board members go , they must surely be expected to be perceived as being the same as the rest of us – Thistle and Heart of Midlothian among others had strife , but managed to find a solution . There isn’t much left for TRFC to cling onto . so hopefully it’s over soon for the benefit of the rest of Scottish football . In my humble opinion , the team would benefit if their supporters lived in the present- how many trophies in the last 11 years despite having the 2nd biggest budget in Scottish football . I also don’t understand how Celtic managed to accrue so many trophies , they must have had some players that it took referee intervention to limit their success . And yes , I have partaken of alcohol .

  14. paddy malarkey
    5th May 2023 at 12:07
    ‘..Blagged from Follow Follow..’
    Nice one, pm.
    I’ve half a mind to jet over for that case when a hearing date is fixed.[as if..!]
    If the RIFC plc board’s reason for pulling out of the Sydney Cup was that the encounter between Celtic and TRFC was not to be billed [ as alleged] as an ‘Old Firm’ match it shows how feckin desperate RIFC plc is to insist on any prop that purports to propagate the myth that TRFC is the RFC of 1872 and therefore ‘inheritor’ of the (originally disparaging!) epithet.
    They know perfectly well that TRFC did not exist prior to 2012.
    May they lose this case and have to pay a good few quid in damages and costs.
    And may the apparent rancorous divisions on their Board continue to hamper any progress the lying club makes
    PS. Thistle and Hearts got out of their difficulties honourably. RFC of 1872 did not, and ceased to exist as a football club!

  15. Just finished watching the Queens Park vs Dundee decider and Dundee are back in the premiership as of next year. It was an error strewn game and I am not sure if either side brings anything to the top flight not currently offered by the like of Ross County or Kilmarnock for instance. It would be damming with faint praise to say both sides showed commitment and enthusiasm but I cannot see a team from this years championship surviving a premiership campaign on this evenings evidence. Churlish not to congratulate Dundee though and hopefully the Tayside derby might be a fixture next season if results pan out. Another one that SkyTV can ignore.

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