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. Very quiet on the blog.
    So, let me say that I have spent some time framing my letter to AIM showing why I think the NOMAD who allowed the Prospectus issued by RIFC plc in 2012 should be faulted for allowing (in my opinion) a factually incorrect and misleading Prospectus to be issued.
    In my opinion, the investing public were very cleverly told that they would be investing in a very, very successful football club, and not in a football club newly admitted into Scottish professional football.
    We’re not talking ‘sport’ here.
    We’re talking about potential corruption in the ‘Market’ and of some ‘regulators’ of the ‘Market’ who may have been party to a scam, wittingly or (unforgivably) unwittingly!
    I believe there is scope for a criminal investigation.

  2. JC, in terms of the IPO claims I think the key thing is the status of Sevco Scotland at the time.
    Much is made of the SPL/SPFL definition of “Club”; however, Sevco Scotland was by that time in membership of the SFL.
    The extant SFL constitution can be found here…

    Couple of important points…


    Football clubs or associations undertaking to provide Association Football according to the Laws of the Game as settled by the International Football Association Board and these Rules may be admitted as members of the League in accordance with the provisions of these Rules.

    A club or association must initially join the League as an Associate Member.

    The League in general meeting may upon such terms and conditions as it may think fit admit any club as an Associate Member or Member of the League and may expel any Member or Associate Member or terminate such membership or may accept the retirement of any Associate Member or Member, but subject always to Rule 126 (Reversion of Transfer of Registration Rights). Upon admission as a Member or Associate Member, the club so admitted shall become bound by and be subject to these Rules and any other Rules or Bye-Laws made by the League for the time being in force.

    MEMBERSHIP NOT TRANSFERRABLE Membership of the League (whether full or associate) shall not be transferrable, save that (a) a Member wishing to change its legal form (whether from unincorporated association to corporate body or otherwise where the ownership and control of both bodies are or will be substantially identical); or (b) a transfer within the same administrative group for the purposes of a solvent reconstruction only; may be permitted by the Board upon prior written application for consent and giving such details of the proposed transfer as the Board may reasonably request for the purpose of considering such transfer. The Board may refuse such application or grant same upon such terms and conditions as it shall think fit.

    RELEGATION FROM AND PROMOTION TO THE SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE Notwithstanding any other provision in these Rules, any football club which is relegated, in terms of the Settlement Agreement between the League and The Scottish Premier League, from The Scottish Premier League, shall automatically be admitted to full membership of the League and shall in the season immediately following that relegation participate in the higher or highest Division of the League. Notwithstanding any other provision of these Rules, the membership of any football club promoted in accordance with Rule 92 (Champion Clubs Promotion and Relegation) to The Scottish Premier League (or otherwise admitted to The Scottish Premier League), in accordance with the Rules of The Scottish Premier League, shall automatically terminate upon the admission of such club to The Scottish Premier League and such club shall not be obliged to give any notice of its cessation of membership of the League and shall be permitted to depart from the League and become a member of The Scottish Premier League (in accordance with the Rules of The Scottish Premier League) without restriction.”

    Sevco Scotland were admitted as an associate club member of the SFL at a time when Rangers were still in membership of the SPL. The rules relating to relegation did not apply since the original Rangers Football Club simply ceased to operate when its SPL share was transferred to Dundee Football Club.

    The SFL constitution recognised that its members were either clubs or associations. It also recognises that clubs have legal form and allows, under certain conditions – such as change of legal form or a solvent reconstruction – that SFL membership can be transferred.

    It is absolutely clear from the SFL constitution that Sevco Scotland Ltd was recognised as a football club. A different football club from Rangers Football Club plc.

    Since the league’s formation in 1998, Rangers had only ever held membership of the SPL. It did not hold a SFL membership to transfer to Sevco Scotland.

    It is not disputed that Sevco Scotland purchased the intellectual property (including the name “Rangers”) but for it’s very first game against Brechin it required the permission of the administrators of Rangers to field most of the players as trialists – as these were still registered with the original club at the time.

  3. HirsutePursuit
    15th August 2023 at 13:50
    ‘..It is absolutely clear from the SFL constitution that Sevco Scotland Ltd was recognised as a football club. A different football club from Rangers Football Club plc.”
    Yes, indeed, HP.
    And it was on the grounds of having become a member of a ‘recognised’ League that Sevco was allowed to apply for membership of the SFA.
    And it was only when membership of the SFA was granted that TRFC became a football club entitled to participate in Scottish professional.
    Such a simple matter of fact that it leaves little doubt in my mind that those who wrote the Prospectus knew the truth but for one reason or another chose to hide the truth, and Cenkos for one reason or another failed in its duty to check the veracity of the Prospectus.
    The clearly implied claim by RIFC plc to be the holding company of Rangers Football Club plc is denied even by RIFC plc itself!
    On the Rangers FC official website, RIFC plc (which seems to piggy-back on that site and seems not to have its own website ) says that it is the holding company of TRFC!
    Even the Ibrox board does not dare take the risk of claiming on its website to be the holding company of RFC 2012 plc!
    That’s the message I want to get across to AIM.
    Curious as it may perhaps seem I do have other interests in life, and the time I can devote to
    drafting a letter/email to AIM that can cut through the very, very clever use of language by the drafters of the Prospectus is limited.
    But I’ll get there.
    Of course, the liars in Scottish Football and the SMSM already KNOW the truth. I hold them in contempt.
    I suppose I just want to see how far up the readiness not to investigate goes.
    The SFA and SFL and then the SPFL bought into the Big Lie; BBC Scotland chickened out on reporting truthfully under orders from the BBC Trust; the print and online press very happily just propagated the Big Lie.
    I have no reason to believe that AIM is any more ‘honest’ but will always be ready to put pragmatism before truth!
    Or, perhaps, show clearly and definitively that my understanding of things is wrong, and that RIFC plc is the holding company of RFC of 1872 in Liquidation.
    As ever, I am open to correction.
    And if AIM can provide the necessary evidence that my dark suspicions about the Prospectus are unfounded, I’ll happily check the evidence and revise my view if necessary.
    ps. I was in Glasgow this afternoon and was reminded of how bloody steep some of those streets are that were shown to the world during the cycling thingy!
    Mrs C and I watched the whole of the men’s road race , with the wonderful laid-back commentary team.
    It was a great TV watch.

  4. I have this very evening finally decided on the text of a letter to AIM Regulation that I hope expresses clearly enough my view that the Prospectus issued by RIFC plc in 2012 ought to have been spotted by the Nomad as containing what I think was misleading information to potential investors.

    I have given them what I understand to be facts, indicating that if my understanding of the facts is incorrect and there is evidence to show that I am incorrect I shall happily accept the evidence.
    I have pressed the ‘send’ button.
    If I get a reply, I will post both my letter and the reply.

  5. Some things never seem to change. Rangers never getting a penalty at home in league games and have an uncanny knack of getting home draws in cup competitions usually with a lesser opponent. What is the track record over the least few years in regards to this occurence.

  6. An acknowledgement of receipt of my email:

    “AIM Regulation
    Cc:AIM Regulation Mon, 21 Aug at 12:11


    Thank you for your email, copied below, regarding Rangers International Football Club plc, which AIM Regulation will consider.
    Kind regards


    We’ll see what their consideration of it will amount to!
    Essentially, all I’m saying is why I think the Nomad seems to have believed that CG bought RFC of 1872 out of Administration as a going concern and that RFC of 1872 somehow is not in Liquidation, and that RIFC plc is the holding company of RFC of 1872 when it is in fact the holding company of TRFC Ltd.
    It will be interesting to see what they say, if anything other than ‘move on, it was years ago’

  7. From the Rolls of Court, today’s issue:

    “LORD RICHARDSON – D Allen, Clerk
    Court 7 – Parliament House
    Wednesday 23rd August

    By Orders
    between 9.00am and 10.00am

    COS/CA104-22 ATP Investments Ltd v Rangers International Football Club Plc
    CMS Brodies LLP
    COS/CA105-22 Norne Anstalt v Rangers International Football Club Plc

    CMS Brodies LLP ”

    This I suppose is about RIFC plc still trying to find out on whose beneficial behalf these two nominees hold RIFC plc shares.

  8. Companies House today:

    “..The following information is available from the company’s filing history.
    Date Form Description
    22 Aug 2023 AP01 Appointment of Mr John Combothekras Halsted as a director on 15 August 2023
    From Companies House

    Date Form Description
    22 Aug 2023 PSC01 Notification of John Combothekras Halsted as a person with significant control on 15 August 2023”
    Who he?

  9. American investor, not new to them, from private equity field, his company (or family company) Perron Investments put money in before.

  10. fitbawfan
    22nd August 2023 at 23:05
    ‘…American investor……’
    Thank you, fitbawfan.
    So what has moved the Board of RIFC plc to make him a director? A promise of funding by him in the way of loans?
    Fiddledeedumfiddledee: great wee tune, that. I love hearing it.

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