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. CW? CG? See D&P? See ‘regulation of ‘business’ and the mechanisms that allow clever people to try to get round little difficulties?
    Have a look at this interesting judgment in a case of an action for damages brought against a law firm for negligence in a liquidation matter (I suggest you start with para 5 to 13)
    I make no comment on the merits of the case or on the parties involved, of course: I am not qualified to do so. The case in question is much too complicated for me to follow with complete understanding.
    But, being a not too unintelligent citizen, the death of RFC of 1872 and the farcical claim by RIFC plc to be the holding company of a Liquidated football club introduced me to the fact that there may/ can be murky business work in the field of the innocent business of sport.
    Not that ‘murky business’ is necessarily illegal.
    But that there are those in business who will lie and cheat unscrupulously and smile because the law is not about morality but about what legislators (many of them at any given time being persons not in the least concerned with ‘morals’) decide the law should be!
    (In the case in question, at least one guy mentioned had been dealt with at one stage in his rotten life)
    [And I watched with great pleasure and enjoyment the first half of the QP v Dundee match. Torn in my emotions, of course, as many people would have been. Great game of football- and really good refereeing.]

  2. Is there a reason why there’s no Coronation Cup competition this time round ?

  3. paddy malarkey
    6th May 2023 at 14:26
    ‘…Is there a reason why there’s no Coronation Cup competition this time round?’
    Ha,ha, pm!
    Late-ish on a miserably dampish, haar-ish,10 feckin degree cold-ish , all day-indoor-ish day in Edinburgh, your question cheered me up!
    it brought back two very clear memories:
    First, of my attendance at Hampden in 1951 at the Celtic/Raith Rovers St Mungo cup match, and Second, of my attendance in 1953 when the schools were all taken to Hampden to see the new Queen, and we all got a tin of sweeties with the Queen’s picture on the lid.
    That second journey to Hampden was the first time I was ever on a train!
    Happy days!
    Anyway, your question remains unanswered.
    Did anyone in the FA or SFA (or in the UK government?) even think of ‘celebrating’ the coronation by staging a football competition?
    Or did they consider the possibility and decided for some reason not to?
    Can anyone find out?

  4. And just afore I go to my kip I regret the passing of the old joke about the spelling of the word ‘king’.

  5. paddymalarkey 6th May@ 14.26

    Looks like wan o’ they one-off trophies that’ll never be defended noo!

    As an aside, I think we should have a wee blog competition sometime for lazy journalism ( as distinct from perennial SMSM ‘narrative Big Lie’ journalism – more of which at a later date) e.g:-

    Today’s predicted Celtic line up v Hearts includes CCV (The 4th Official) !!!!!

    Thinking caps on!

  6. paddy malarkey
    8th May 2023 at 12:21
    ‘..One less for JC…’
    +++++++++Ha, ha, pm.

    I almost feel sorry for Whyte and Grier
    But my contempt for the wretches at the BBC who wrote this has not in the least diminished:
    “However, under Whyte’s stewardship, the Rangers business went into administration and then liquidation in 2012”
    The entity that went into Liquidation and which is still in Liquidation there was the Rangers Football Club plc.
    TRFC is a new football club founded and admitted into Scottish football in 2012.
    And the wretched liars know themselves to be gutless, pretendy ‘journalists’ who soil the profession.

  7. paddy malarkey
    6th May 2023 at 14:26
    Is there a reason why there’s no Coronation Cup competition this time round ?

    I would postulate that the clubs, especially the big rich ones in the EPL would not want to take part in another tournament that would interrupt their European prospects or their fight for a lucrative top 4 finish. If they were forced to participate they would probably field weakened teams as many of them already do in their own English Cup.

  8. My comments above lead me on to my favourite moan re English football. It’s the arrogant way they don’t put the word “English” in front of their competitions while every one else has to. For example their Cup competition is labelled as the FA Cup and the whole world has to know it’s the English Cup while every other country has to add the country’s name. You can add your own example even outside football. Don’t misunderstand me I’m not anti English but this trait annoys me.

  9. Ballyargus
    8th May 2023 at 16:52
    ‘…but this trait annoys me..’
    Well, Ballyargus, I know what you mean in so far as Englanders have to be reminded that ‘England’ is not another word for ‘the UK’. (I love it when some prat of a politician has to correct himself for using ‘England’ when he means ‘the UK’).
    However, when we ourselves make sure that the ‘Open’ means our ‘Open’ without ‘Scottish’, and not the American or other ‘Open’, I can live with the English FA’s claim to primacy!
    God, I’m so fair-minded that I astonish myself!

  10. Pedant alert

    @JohnClark although organised by the R&A “The Open” is the UK Open in reality. It is certainly held in Scotland but also Norn Iron (Royal Port Rush) and several courses in England and Scotland including of course (no pun intended) the Old Course. Wales doesn’t appear to have hosted probably because it lacks a Links course of sufficient stature. This years will be at Royal Liverpool

    The Scottish Open is usually the week before and in recent years has been fixed at North Berwick.

  11. The Rangers investor information page has yet to be updated to reflect the discounted share transfer to Club1872 which restored the organisation to a 5% holding. Club1872 representatives met the new chairman in London earlier this month and state on their website that it was cordial and that they believe that fan involvement and investment will be welcomed in the future. Why so reluctant or tardy to let potential investors know the current levels of shareholding? I am assuming that the board must know the current state of affairs. Club1872 being the recipients of the shares definitely know but they also seem rather coy.

  12. tykebhoy
    10th May 2023 at 11:04
    ‘…@JohnClark although organised by the R&A…’
    I’ll defer, of course, to your wider knowledge.!
    Not being a golfer myself I just thought Scotland was the home of golf and ‘The Open’ was the first significant golf tournament, and markets itself as that!

  13. Went to the bother of turning up at Court 11 in Parliament House this morning only to find out that there was nothing on in that court room. A journalist had also turned up expecting like me to attend the scheduled hearing relating to blocked RIFC plc shareholders.
    Enquiries could elicit nothing other than that Lord Richardson was in another Court-room on an unconnected matter. By half-past 9, we still couldn’t find out what the score was, so I just went home.
    The hearing may have taken place after I left, when or if Lord Richardson was free, or it may have been by webex!
    Or it may have been suddenly postponed, or feckin well withdrawn for all Joe Public would know!
    There were no notices on the notice-boards about any of the day’s business, such as there may have been [ very quiet, indeed, with some painters painting the walls in the wee corridor which has the doors of Courts 10,11, and 12]

  14. Albertz11
    9th May 2023 at 17:06

    That interview will only be of interest of those like you who wish to believe the MYTH that somehow Rangers avoided going BANKRUPT and have NOT existed since 2012.

    Craig Houston in that interview keeps talking about company and Paul Murray kept saying Charles Green bought the club – he NEVER did buy Rangers football Club – he bought the remaining assets of the Rangers Football Club – the ground etc – that was put into BANKRUPTCY then and are still going through that process just now and he then formed a NEW football club using those assets and then gave it a name similar to the old one.

    The ONLY way that the original Rangers would have managed to survive is if they or someone paid their massive debts off – did this happen – NO – hence why they were put into BANKRUPTCY and have NOT existed as a football club/company since then.

    And do not give us your drivel about the separate club/company crap – maybe you could explain how no other football club or company has thought of that wizard wheeze to avoid their debts and bankruptcy before or since this new FAKE Rangers supposedly did it to avoid paying their massive debt.

  15. Albertz11
    9th May 2023 at 17:06

    I carry no torch but an absolute disgrace how Rangers were discarded by a knight of the realm who went on to claim ‘not my fault guv’. The circles ,magic or not, in which he moves have afforded outrageous protection subsequently. It has been raised earlier Albertz11 perhaps you can now assist in the question of the missing 5 stars on the shirts and maybe comment on the current shareholding as to who ensured Club1872 could still have some influence??

  16. Gunnerb

    Don’t hold your breath when asking A11 to be transparent, humble and honest about the history of what he/she would call Rangers FC (1872 – ) as it can only end in disappointment for you ie you will be ‘dingied’

    I asked said poster back in March if he/she believed that entity had been consigned to liquidation – stll waitin on a response.

    55 Scottish League titles (and counting no doubt!) my a***!

  17. gunnerb 13/05 16.18.

    No info re-5 stars (will try and find out) and as for Club1872, despite a recent meeting in London with John Bennett my position regarding any influence they may have or hope to have has not changed. They are a busted flush and will remain so unless there are wholesale changes in the Board, The attendance at their recent AGM tells you that.

    bect67 13/05

    Despite your comment i do try to respond to questions when they are directed specifically toward me. However when every post is placed in moderation it becomes difficult to reply in a timely manner.
    As for the question you asked in March (never seen it tbh) i will repeat myself again by saying that there is no point in discussing the subject matter as views on either side are never going to change and any discussion would only result in a further loss of readers to the blog.

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