REFEREES have sought a pay rise from the Scottish Professional Football League and have indicated they could vote on strike action if their demands are not met.
Scotland's match officials feel it is unfair that they are expected to take charge of SPFL Championship games involving Rangers and others such as the Edinburgh derby for a fee of £195 and have asked for a substantial rise to bring officiating such ties into line with Premiership games for which they are paid £840. Talks between SPFL officials and James Bee, the Scottish Senior Football Referees' Association chairman, have reached an impasse, though they may reopen negotiations later this week.
With funds tight because there is no sponsor for the leagues, the SPFL feel it would be wrong to approve any pay increases. Instead, they have suggested to the SSRFA that the referees' body takes responsibility for redistributing the annual pot and categorise games which currently bring an £840 payment should be reduced in order to facilitate an increase for fees for second tier matches attracting large crowds.
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For example, a Hearts v Rangers Championship game could be classified as a Category A game and result in a payment of around £700 but a Premiership game between, for example, Hamilton Academical and Ross County could be classified as Category B and earn a payment of £335.
The SSRFA do not agree and are holding out for a significant overall pay hike for all Championship ties, including fixtures such as, for example, Cowdenbeath v Alloa Athletic.
The last resort would be for Bee and his colleagues to vote on the issue and that could lead to them pulling out of games, although it is understood they only have around 60% of match officials in their union and the bulk are Category 2 and 3.
All parties are keen to ensure that it does not reach that stage, however.
Referees did strike in November 2010, though, after a vote, when they claimed they were fed-up of being criticised and having their integrity being called in to question by senior figures within the game.
They won some sympathy back then but feeling in the game now is that they are sufficiently well rewarded.