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. I am still recovering from the astonishing doings in Dingwall this afternoon (I think I may previously have mentioned my very remote links to Partick Thistle via my late sister’s in-laws in Garscube Road back in the 1960s, which links compete with the equally remote ‘link’ of having briefly been a sort of colleague of Mackay’s granny!!)
    So, I turned my attention this evening to trying to explore what would happen to a NOMAD who had allowed a plc to get away for a number of years with having issued an IPO prospectus which contained misleading information.
    For example, and off the top of my head, what would happen to the NOMAD of a plc if that plc’s Prospectus was so written as to suggest to potential investors that it was the ‘holding company’ of a long-standing historically very successful company of which in fact and law it could not possibly be the holding company?
    Heaven forfend that there could ever have been such a scenario!
    But if any such scenario should ever present itself, would the mere passage of time absolve an inefficient and/or incompetent and/ or complicit-in-fraud NOMAD?
    Haven’t found the answer yet.
    But what I would give to have the resources to pay a London KC to explore the matter!
    [Nothing against Scottish KCs of course, except that they may be too ready to speak of ‘the what-it’s-all-aboutness’ of things]!

  2. “wokingcelt
    3rd June 2023 at 12:24
    Borussiabeefburg – I do find it strange that it appears to be progressing despite Aberdeen not being onboard. I do struggle with why not revert to an old-fashioned reserves league which would give more meaningful game time to fringe first team players and be a stepping stone for academy boys coming through. There’s a clearer pathway for boys in England with their U23 league (which is one of the draws for our academy players being attracted south at age 16). I’m sure there will be reasons/excuses made about cost but I think our clubs need to try harder.”

    I get the feeling that few supporters have viewed the 5-page document produced by the SFA in support of the proposal, which uses as its main plank the argument that this new conference league system will lead to Scotland producing more international quality players: a frankly nonsensical suggestion.

    The proposal is driven by the SFA/SPFL and, jointly, Celtic and Rangers, with Hearts tagging along presently. The future intention is to place the B sides into the SPFL system, and it could be envisioned why this is the aim. For me, clubs may wish to maintain a Scottish presence if they ever manage to leave the domestic game for a more lucrative set up in England or Europe: it appears the SPFL are taking out insurance to mitigate this possibility.

    Having extra sides in SPFL, perhaps up to Championship level, would also allow the more powerful clubs to stockpile players.

    Voting takes place tomorrow at the SFA AGM, around 40 votes are already stacked up as ‘No’ with no club officially supportive of the proposal, although you could assume the three clubs listed as wishing to use B sides will be in favour.

    Around 55 votes defeats the proposal………………………. for the time being.

  3. borussiabeefburg
    5th June 2023 at 08:57
    ‘…Around 55 votes defeats the proposal………………………. for the time being@
    I’m catching up on things a bit late tonight, and was happy to read
    “The SFA has decided to abandon plans for a potential new fifth-tier Conference League that was largely rejected by clubs.”
    on the DR’s online page when I tuned in to the blog a few minutes ago.
    Like you, borussiabeefburg, I suspect that the proponents of a ‘conference league’ will not give up.
    Money does talk at the end of the day, but the principle of true sporting competition with true winners/losers has to be asserted, otherwise the game’s a bogey!
    These days of relatively easy european travel, perhaps minds could turn to creating a euro B team league or something of the kind that does not impact the domestic leagues of participating national Associations?
    Surely to God someone in the SFA can begin to think outside the box?
    Or perhaps not, given that the SFA abandoned the very concept of ‘sporting integrity’ in 2012!

  4. My post at 5th June 2023 at 23:23 refers.
    I loved this
    “Scottish Football Supports Association chairperson Andy Smith reiterated his ‘bloody nose’ message earlier. Smith said: “I really hope that this daft idea based on the self-interest of just three members gets the bloody nose it deserves on Tuesday.”
    Plain speaking, as against the weasel ‘corporate body’ speak of money-grubbing unprincipled *******
    who lie.

  5. I notice a house cleaning of players at Leicester and a number of them appear to be out of contract. Surely the DR will have them slated for signing at Rangers in record time. The out of contract aspect will certainly have great appeal, more so, than the reported 7 million offered for a striker. Also the stories about Tilman appear to be moving far down the “to do” list. Apologies for the relegated comment earlier this month. It must have stuck in my head as being true as its so often stated/repeated in the scottish media and Ranger fan sites.

  6. A see whit ye mean A11.

    If it wisnae fur the mighty, and ever so altruistic, TRFC (having learned from the financial malpractice and subsequent liquidation of their predecessor?) the gemme wid be deid in Scotland.

    The brazen and hypocritical WATP mentality in general, and the arrogant superiority that emanates from it, ferr gies me a laff at times!

  7. bect67
    7th June 2023 at 20:13
    ‘…The brazen and hypocritical WATP mentality in general..’
    If, God forbid, the Thistle go into Administration there is the possibility that any halfway competent Court-appointed ‘Administrators’ will find a buyer to rescue them by paying their debts and funding their continuation.
    Something that did NOT happen in the case of the Administration of RFC of 1872!
    That club’s debts were not paid, and the club died the death of Liquidation.
    The SFA withdrew that football club’s membership because it had ceased to belong to a recognised football league having had to surrender its share in the then SPL in 2012.
    Everybody knows those to be the facts.
    And there is something really rotten at the heart of Scottish Football that allows the monstrous propagation of the lie that TRFC is RFC of 1872.
    If a John SevcoClark(e) Ltd were to buy from the Administrators of a Partick Thistle-in- Administration some ( and only some, because it could not buy some important assets) of the assets of that club from an incompetent pair of Administrators who failed to bring it out of Administration, and then sought entry into a ‘recognised football league’ and admission to membership of the SFA, would they be allowed to market themselves as Partick Thistle of 18-oatcake and claim the honours of that club?
    No effin way!
    The rot is there-at the very heart of Scottish Football !
    The liars and defenders of the liars and betrayers of their office as a ‘governance body’ know fine and well that they are liars.
    And not to be too melodramatic, they know that their graves may be- metaphorically at least-spat upon by many, many people because of their craven dereliction of duty.
    [ Ps Is yer West Ham man now favourite for the Celtic job?]

  8. JC
    [ Ps Is yer West Ham man now favourite for the Celtic job?]

    My ‘tuppence worth’ right now is that Celtic will wait till after the CL Final and then make a move for Enzo Maresca.

    Could be (and not for the first time!) wrong, but there ye go – ‘head above the parapet’ so to speak!

  9. bect67
    9th June 2023 at 10:57
    ‘…My ‘tuppence worth’ right now is that Celtic will wait till after the CL Final and then make a move for Enzo Maresca.’
    bect67, I’m in no way knowledgeable enough to make my own serious suggestion as to who may be in contention as a replacement for Postecoglou.
    But I would hope that the Celtic board including Dermot Desmond already know who they want that they might be able and willing to afford and will not bugger about for weeks and weeks!
    My own personal view is that re-hiring a former ‘deserter’ would not be appropriate.
    Postecoglou is of course not a deserter [honour and praise and thanks to him]
    But Rodgers opted to go for what seemed to him best for him. Fair do’s.
    But he has to live with that and accept the consequences: personally, I’d kick his fundament if he even applied for the job!
    But what do I know?
    Answer: not a hellish lot!

  10. So …Barry Ferguson is exhorting Rangers* to “get on with the job of restoring the natural order”

    Whit happened tae yir ‘fact checking’ Barry?

    We’re talkin’ here about:-

    a) An outfit (TRFC) that is 11 years old – with two major Scottish football trophies and , more importantly …
    b) The above clubs predecessor, which is (how you say it Leigh?) ……….’deid’!

    Ergo – no natural order applies!

  11. I’ve just listened to a piece of news as broadcast by BBC RadioScotland.
    I hope Police Scotland and/or the COPFS are not going to land us with another lot of compensation payments for wrongful arrest!

  12. John Clark 30/05 23.03

    Just seen this post John.
    A question. I’m actually not sure here but if there was no transfer under TUPE, why did four players engage Bridge Litigation to object to their TUPE transfer.Surely if there was none,then there would have been no need to do so.

  13. A11

    Nor really sure what you’re after here, but you might get some clarity from:_

    ‘Random Thoughts on Scots Law’ (Paul Mc Conville)
    ‘Rangers, Sevco and the law, June 2012 Threatened Court Actions – Sevco v the Players’

    Plenty of comments therein too.

  14. Albertz11
    12th June 2023 at 12:46
    ‘…Surely if there was none, then there would have been no need to do so.’
    Albertz11, this link
    may help you.
    I’ve lifted this from it to show the difference between businesses merely changing ownership and businesses going defunct.

    “When the organisation is closed down – ‘terminal insolvency’
    You will not transfer to a new employer if your current employer:
    -goes into ‘liquidation’ and closes down the organisation
    -becomes bankrupt
    Instead, you should be made redundant. ”
    It is a fact that the entity that held the share in the then SFL in 2012 was Rangers Football Club plc. It was that entity that went into liquidation the Administrators not having been successful in obtaining an outright buyer or a CVA.
    The basic point is that SevcoScotland did NOT become the new owners of Rangers Football Club plc. That entity and its ownership of contracts with its employees did not ‘transfer’ and could not have legally transferred to SevcoScotland: the contracts were nullified (remember CG’s fury at that?)
    Each and every employee was free to walk away (unemployed!) or sign a new contract of employment with Sevcoscotland.
    For the majority, of course, there would have been no real choice-sign up with CG or be unemployed!
    But one or two of the high-profile players exercised their rights and chose to walk away.
    [Far be it from me to suggest that the 4 players you mention may have been ill-advised if the advice given to them was that they HAD to sign up with CG’s Sevco!
    If you could provide reference details of the court action so that we could look up the judgment that would maybe give us information about their understanding of what their legal position was, if the ‘judgment’ can be found on BAILLII?]

  15. As Albertz11 is our go to guy on all things Ibrox I wonder if there is any comment on this piece posted on Ibrox news. Apparently the Easedales (remember them) have had their shares and entitlements in Rangers returned to them. I can only assume these were the said shares suspended from voting rights etc by Dave King whom it now seems wants to partner up ! This must be a wind up surely.

  16. gunnerb
    13th June 2023 at 19:30
    ‘…I can only assume these were the said shares suspended from voting rights .’
    As far as I can see, gunnerb, there has been no published ‘opinion’ of the Court of Session on the matter of RIFC plc’s request that the names of the shareholders who are hidden behind a nominee should be declared.
    Perhaps I’ve missed something?
    But any press piece that talks about millionaire and billionaire interest in RIFC plc has to be viewed with deepest suspicion as to its truthfulness.
    We remember yon eejit (in the DR, was it?) who spouted absolute sh.te about the MBMB.

    Who knows, but is ‘Doug Ward’ really that same eejit, whose ‘journalism’ does not come with a guarantee of fidelity to Truth.
    Honest to God!
    There was no billionaire or even measly millionaire to come to save RFC of 1872 from the death of Liquidation.
    Neither King nor any other big shareholder was prepared to put their money where their miserable mouths were, pay the debts and buy outright their ‘beloved’ football club out of Administration.
    No, no.
    On-the-make chancers all, in my opinion. Who were outsmarted by CG!
    And further reference to billionaires coming to buy TRFC?

  17. Am I reading this development right
    The man who blocked voting rights
    of these shareholders (who had to go to court to overturn the block )now wants to team up with them to take over sevco 2012 .

  18. Well, a pretty crap game to watch, eh? But an incredibly good result through sheer hard-working non-stop effort, with two very well-worked goals in quick succession. Well done to Steve Clarke and the team.
    And whit’s -his-name Haaland could score only with a penalty and did not get too much in the way of freedom – and was not particularly well-served by his team-mates.

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